SNOWED IN

January 29th, 2022 was a huge snow storm. The storm resulted in 8 inches of snow overall, the roads were not fully cleaned yet; the roads were extremely slippery. The day of the storm, there was a traveling ban.  One of our writers, Gladys Gabe Sosa, unfortunately had to miss work because the store had to close early at 2:15, which was 45 minutes before his shift would usually start. They had to call out of work the next day, Sunday the 30th of January. The roads were still slippery, had little to no ice, and the sidewalks were still yet to be shoveled. The Monday after the storm was still unsafe. There were piles and piles of snow on the sides of the street, the weather was extremely cold, the roads were yet to be salted and very icy resulting in many students skidding while driving to school, buses arriving to their stops later than usual, and minor injuries in students who are within walking distance of the school. Many students believe that schools should’ve been canceled, or at least a 2-hour delay, the Monday after the big storm because of the weather conditions that morning. Many students then began to wonder how the city made decisions for snow days and 2-hour delays. To learn more about this topic, we interviewed Superintendent Binienda. 

“There’s a whole process that happens.” Mrs. Binienda said in an interview. On February 18th, the superintendent of Worcester came into North High to get interviewed by several groups of student journalists.  We interviewed her about her process in calling snow days, delays, and early dismissals. 

Adaysia first asked, “What reason do you use to indicate when we have a 2-hour delay or snow day?” Mrs. Binienda then answered, “There’s a special weather station that superintendents have and it’s called Precision Weather. So that gets sent to us on our emails with updates every several hours. If it’s a big storm, the updates come more often. So we look at the Precision Weather, we meet with people from the city side to the school side, and then we decide if it looks like the storm is definitely coming, whether it’s going to be a no school day or it’s going to be a 2-hour delay.” Of course everyone looks at the weather forecast, but how do they know if their decision is definite? She continues to explain the whole process and different alternates if things happen to change. 

“If the storm is unclear… then we meet at 4:30, the morning of… We have people out on the roads that are driving the roads, they drive all around the city, they go uphills. There are certain hills that you always know are good indicators if it’s going to be safe for school to open. Based on that we make our decision.” As Worcester has many hills it is important to check the condition of them because most of the hills that are frozen can cause a lot of damage to both cars and people. Imagine what would happen if schools were open the day the biggest hills with bus stops were iced over; how many kids would get hurt? Ms. Binienda also mentions how the custodians would also check the schools to see if the parking lot and the sidewalks were salted. It is important to check these conditions before school opens because then there would be problems if there were crashes on campus. Based on this list of conditions, they make their decision whether schools should be closed or not. 

To make the decision for delays, she says, “If it looks like the storm came in over the night and the DBW have been sanding and salting all night and the temperatures are set to rise in the morning… then we’ll do a 2-hour delay.” However, if the day after a storm is set to be hot, ice and snow will melt throughout the day. It would be beneficial to make a delay as students wouldn’t miss a day of school that didn’t have to be canceled. As she’s mentioned before, the decision to make snow days and delays are based on the weather during and after night. 

During the interview, Adaysia asked, “Who else concludes alongside you on what days we should or should not have 2 hour delays or snow days?” Mrs. Binienda then responded by providing the names; the department of public works, deputy superintendent, myself, the head of transportation for Worcester Public Schools, the director of the facilities, and the assistant director of facilities. As she’s explained before, there is a group of people that help her determine her decision, therefore, she is not the only one who decides whether school opens or not. She also mentions that the city manager can also be a part of the meetings for school cancellations, especially for bigger storms.

There is a limit of how many snow days a school year can have. As all students know, there are days when we have to make up snow days at the end of the year, but cannot stay in school past the end of June. “There is a 5 snow day limit. And we build that into the calendar every year… If we go past that then we add on days of school.” However, if we go past the limit of snow days and the “makeup snow days” go past June 30th, the state will have to figure something out as all schools must fill up the required amount of hours the state says to. They have to be careful to not pass it in order to allow students to get into the next grade for completing the required amount of hours in school. 

To continue the conversation, Miyah asked, “Are you able to change your mind about a snow day or cancel the snow day?” Mrs. Binienda responds by explaining the process of sending out the calls. First, she sends out the calls to all the numbers for the schools and proceeds to say that school will have a 2-hour delay and if the weather proceeds to get worse, she will call again and cancel school altogether. This way it could give her a chance to change her mind rather than making school open again after canceling it. It would be highly unlikely and highly unfair to make a snow day the day before and then change it into a day of school the morning of. Not only would it get everyone’s hopes up, but it would cause a lot of anger within the students. 

In New England, the weather is always changing. You’ll be experiencing all four seasons in one day. One day the weather can be clear and sunny and hot and then the next, a big blizzard can hit with over three inches of snow. “The tough part is the weather is not always predictable as we would like it to be, so sometimes we just have to say ‘okay we’re going to take a chance on this.’”