Winter: the season of holidays, hot chocolate and — best of all for students — canceled school. Some years, the number of district snow days reaches a total of two weeks or more. However, many students and parents never stop to consider who makes the decision to cancel school, and how, even though it affects their lives considerably during the winter months.

Assistant superintendent Todd Lofrese is in charge declaring snow days, and his insights may clarify the process for parents and students.

“It’s a difficult decision,” LoFrese said. “It isn’t something we take lightly. We want to hold school whenever possible, but safety is first and foremost.”

First, Lofrese and his colleagues must consider school and road conditions. Even if conditions seem clear to adults, driving on icy or snowy roads is especially challenging for high school students if they don’t have a lot of experience.

Furthermore, even if roads in and around Chapel Hill-Carrboro are clear, staff who live in other districts might be facing different, possibly worse, conditions entirely.  Because the state Department of Transportation prioritizes highways over city and rural roads, cleanup can also be slower than expected.

Lofrese thinks there are misconceptions about the process of canceling school, though critics are not necessarily ill intentioned. “Some parents and staff like to know [whether or not there will be school] as early as possible,” he said, so if school is canceled, they will have time to arrange for childcare.

Chapel Hill covered in snow during a storm last year. Photos by Sofia Dimos.

Many surrounding districts call families with a verdict the night before a possible snow day, while CHCCS often makes that call the morning of.

Lofrese pointed out that these surrounding districts are geographically larger, and their buses start leaving to pick up kids as early as four in the morning. Buses in CHCCS, on the other hand, leave around six o’clock, meaning district officials have the luxury of waiting until the morning to make a decision.

This extra time can be very helpful, said Lofrese. Because of North Carolina’s location, weather forecasters sometimes have a difficult time predicting whether precipitation will come in as a rain, or snow/ice.

“Ice is tricky to predict, but extremely treacherous,” LoFrese said. Waiting until the last minute may be more inconvenient, but it helps district officials make the most informed decision.

Next time you find yourself sleeping in on a Tuesday because the roads are covered in a thick blanket of snow, or you’re eagerly awaiting a call from the district late at night, maybe take a second to consider the people and decisions that got you there.

Between looking out for the safety of students, and ensuring school is open 180 days, their job is often complex, and likely stressful.

About Hope Anderson

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Hope Anderson, senior, is a Senior Editor and a waffle enthusiast. In her spare time she watches British dramas and eats off-brand organic snack products.