Snow day decisions: How school superintendents make the call

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) When the weather outside gets bad, how do school officials decide whether to cancel classes?

Lamoille South Supervisory Union Superintendent Tracy Wrend says it's a tough decision. The focus is on safety and road conditions.

"There is a romantic notion that perhaps superintendents all go it on their back porches and test the weather," Wrend said.

Turns out there is more that goes into figuring out whether to keep schools open or to declare a snow day.

Wrend says she wakes up early, checks the weather reports and hears from road crews, as well as transportation companies.

There are no specific criteria that force schools to close. As little as 6 inches of snow at the wrong time could be enough to cancel classes, while 18 inches that plow drivers can stay ahead of might not.

Wrend says it is not a decision she takes lightly.

"Students and families count on us for warm breakfasts and lunch, and providing safe supervised places for students to be while parents are at work," Wrend said.

It can sometimes be challenging for parents to entertain the little ones.

"They get a little stir crazy," one mom from Stowe said.

She said she tries to make snow days as fun as possible.

"We'll just hang out at home, but usually we like to go to the mountain and ski. That's sort of our thing," she said.

For some, the library is a refuge.

"We're open!" said Rachel Funk Booher, a librarian at Morristown Centennial Library.

Funk Booher says it gets packed on a snow day because it's so close to the downtown.

"We often get teenagers here using the computers or sitting over at the tables, hanging out together," she said. "We get moms and their young kids. We get people coming in to play games."

And Wrend says just because one school in the district is closed, doesn't mean all the schools in the district will be closed. Sometimes it varies, especially in an extreme weather event like an ice storm.

Wrend said there could be some cancellations Wednesday because of the freezing rain at sunrise.