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Wed, Nov. 20

School superintendents turn weathermen as they prepare for snow
This week’s storm could alter schedules, cause closures

Dan Streeter and Joe Howard

Dan Streeter and Joe Howard

With a predicted snowstorm headed this way on Thursday, local school superintendents are in the spotlight as they prepare to make decisions that will impact a big chunk of families in the tri-city area.

“We’re following the weather forecasts closely,” Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Dan Streeter said of staying informed about expected snow levels and temperatures that will impact roads and travel. “The closer we get to the weather system the more accurate our predictions, and the better decisions we can make.

“Until the system gets here, our hands are a little bit tied.”

Two days away from the predicted big storm, Streeter was clear that much careful thought goes into making any decision about a school interruption, noting there are a couple of schools in his 10-school district where 80 percent of the students depend on free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch. So the district’s top priority is safety, whether or not students and staff can safely be transported to school, he said.

“My whole take on it is a little corny, but every day now is like a snowflake. They’re all completely different,” Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard said.

This week, Howard has found himself driving around city roads before dawn to see if they were icy or smooth.

If there is a lesson he has learned over the years — and he stays in close contact with his fellow superintendents — is that no forecast is foolproof.

“We know to wait,” Howard said.

If the forecast for the end of the week holds true, Howard said it is possible the district might have two snow days. If it changes, it might simply be a delay.

Like Streeter, Howard said the final call will be rooted in what is safest for students, staff and families. Both also said they would much prefer to call either an opening delay or close school, rather than proceed with the school day only to be forced into an early dismissal.

As for impact on the school calendar, Streeter said HUSD has a two-day window without any impact. Prescott Unified’s calendar also has some flexibility, including swapping out the Friday prior to spring break, Howard said.

“Forecasts change. So we will wait and see what things look like (closer to Thursday),” Howard said.

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