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To School Or Not to School

To School Or Not to School

Winter Preparedness & School Cancellation Policy

While there might be some uncertainty around who first spoke the now often-referenced saying – “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” – there’s no denying its accuracy here in the Green Mountain State.  

For many, a Vermont winter means the return of rides up the ski lift, sledding at your favorite hill, and extra large cups of hot cocoa.  For the leaders at Lamoille North, it means keeping a close eye on the forecast and listening to our local road crew partners to help keep our school community safe.  And now that the snow is here, you may be wondering how district leadership go about making the call to stay open or close when winter weather is inbound.

Snowfall totals can range widely from one corner of the state to another.  The greater Burlington area has seen snowfall amounts from as little as 32 inches in 1913 to as many as 145 inches in 1971.  Yet things can look a little different within our own district where our towns (generally) fall within the Green Mountain Range between Mount Mansfield and Jay Peak.  Both those mountains average 280 and 359 inches respectively.  All that to say, our six communities contend with snowy winters and all of the other wintry impacts – ice, sleet, power outages, cold temps – that hit Vermont.

From a practical standpoint, canceling school is never an easy decision.  LNSU leaders realize and understand the reverberation of impacts that can hit parents and caregivers.  From a safety perspective, it’s ALWAYS an easy decision.  “We give consideration to our bus drivers, students who are new drivers on winter roads and to whether the faculty, at large, commuting from all over the state, will be able to arrive safely, and if we will adequately be able to staff the school for the day,” explained Lamoille North Superintendent Catherine Gallagher.

Since taking on the top role for the Supervisory Union in 2016, Superintendent Gallagher has worked to develop and enhance the district’s relationships with partners in our communities.  In the winter, that means nearly daily phone calls with road foremen like Mark French.

LNSU Superintendent Catherine Gallagher & Hyde Park Road Foreman Mark French

French has also been leading his department in Hyde Park since 2016.  As a father himself, French understands the importance of sharing an accurate and realistic rundown of current and future road conditions.  “Depending on the weather or storm rolling in, my crew is usually out working the Hyde Park roads between 2:00 or 3:00am,” explained French.  “We drive big vehicles ourselves, so we understand the responsibility of bus drivers.  They not only have to worry about driving their own 30 thousand pound vehicle, but they have to worry about all of the other drivers dealing with winter weather.”

The Lamoille North Supervisory Union covers 251 square miles of the county.  Weather conditions can differ drastically from town to town, they can differ drastically from road to road.  “Our transportation system is centralized and all buses travel from each of our towns to the Lamoille Union campus. If one town experiences freezing rain and the roads are considered potentially unsafe by our road crews in that town, we will close schools even if the weather conditions and roads in every other town are safe for travel,” added Superintendent Gallagher. “This is the hardest thing for many to understand.”

The district's goal is to confer with road crews from each of our towns and to make a call about a closure or delay to parents and caregivers between 5:45 and 6:00am to allow for as much time as possible to adjust.  The same protocols go for mid-day closures as well.  If the forecast changes and impactful weather is expected to hit during end-of-day travel, the district will take the necessary steps to keep students and staff safe.

If at any time, a parent or caregiver feels that road conditions near their home are too unsafe to drive to school, they can choose to keep a student(s) home even if we open.  The absence will be excused.  Superintendent Gallagher also reminds folks that we cannot use weather closures as remote learning days and the district will need to make up any lost days at the end of the year, as has traditionally occurred pre-pandemic.

We thank you in advance for adjusting to any weather-related delays, closures, or early dismissals we deem to be the safest choice.  These decisions are made with the best available information, in a very short period of time, taking into account all Lamoille North communities.

What can you or your young driver do to stay safe this winter?  Consider the tips below:

Prepare Your Vehicle (...and know its capabilities)

  • Make sure brakes, wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust system are in good working order

  • Check antifreeze and windshield washer fluid are ready for cold temps

  • Install proper winter tires (the same type) on all four wheels, be sure they are properly inflated with sufficient tread

Drive Safe

  • Avoid using cruise control in wintry conditions

  • Steer in the direction of a skid, when tires regain traction, you don’t have to overcorrect to stay in lane

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly

Read the Road

  • Watch out for ice, especially on bridges, ramps, overpasses

  • Slow down, increase following distance to more than four seconds

  • Keep the phones down, minimize distractions

Check out the rest of these tips from Vermont State Police and the National Safety Council

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