Just when we thought winter was behind us, Mother Nature is sending a snowy reminder that it's not over yet.
The late winter storm forecast has one daycare group in Chittenden County changing its inclement weather policy. "We understand how important it is for us to stay open so that parents can go to work," said Janet Woodruff, with Kids & Fitness. The group operates three daycare centers in South Burlington, Williston and Essex. They used to announce closures the night before a storm -- in line with the school districts. But after a few false alarms this season the centers said they're now delaying that decision until 6 a.m. the next morning.
"We can actually see what the weather is like and the prediction for that day," said Kids & Fitness Director Kim McCrae.
These state certified facilities are required to maintain a certain staff to child ratio. Since some employees commute from other counties, the centers said waiting gives them a more accurate snapshot of how hazardous the roads will be. In the end they admit they could make the same call as the districts, but say the new policy ensures parents aren't scrambling unnecessarily. "If you end up being closed and people have to take a day off work and they may have been able to go to work it certainly makes them feel like you're making a better educated decision," McCrae said.
"Really we have to make a crystal ball decision by 6 a.m. in Burlington," said Jeanne Collins, superintendent in Burlington, the state's largest district. She said she rarely calls a snow day the night before. Unlike other districts, Burlington has the luxury of waiting, because school buses don't have to maneuver slippery back roads. Fifty-percent of Burlington's students walk and the other half arrive by car or public transportation. Superintendent Collins said snow days also mean more than half of the district's kids may not have adequate food, warmth or supervision. "So for us to close impacts not only academic learning but also sometimes the safety and welfare of our students," she said.
Collins said the preference for all districts is to be in classroom. Schools must meet the mandated 175 days. No one wants to be stuck in school come summer.
Kids & Fitness said it will alert parents of any closing Tuesday morning of by 6:05 a.m. via email. And anyone who calls will hear it on the centers' answering machines.