School Supt. James C. Agostine said the decision whether to cancel school due to snow or related weather factors is not made without weighing many factors, especially student safety.
Agostine said he speaks with a weather consultant, nearby school superintendents and the town’s highway department supervisor before deciding what to do.
“These decisions are not made in isolation,” Agostine told the Board of Education (BOE) at the Tuesday night meeting.
Some have questioned why Monroe schools were closed all day Friday and Monday due to the recent snowstorm.
While up to 30 inches of snow fell in Monroe from Friday afternoon to late Saturday morning, some detractors have said perhaps school could have met for a half day in the morning on Friday and a delayed opening was more appropriate on Monday.
Agostine said Monroe was not the first district to cancel school on Monday or Friday.
Agostine said the school system’s snow crew — which included staff and outside contractors — essentially worked 24 consecutive hours once the snow stopped falling and access could be gained to the school properties.
“We had people sleeping over because they couldn’t get out,” he said of those working on snow removal at the schools.
On that Sunday, administrators discussed whether a Monday opening was feasible. “It was a close call if we could make it,” Agostine said. “The deciding factor was the freezing rain.”
Forecasters were predicting freezing rain on Monday morning in the area. Other factors were the poor sight lines in many locations, some roads in town still weren’t passable and others weren’t plowed to the asphalt, and the fact that some people couldn’t get out of their own driveways.
A related issue was that schools shouldn’t operate without adequate staff. Some districts that did open elsewhere in the state were understaffed because faculty, other staff and substitutes couldn’t get there.
Praises town and school plowers
Agostine praised the work that Monroe town workers did clearing roads as well as the efforts of school staff and contractors. School staff members plowed, shoveled and sanded school parking lots and sidewalks while contractors removed snow piles from parking lots, sidewalks and fire exits. Four payloaders were used at the school facilities.
“We couldn’t have opened on Tuesday without their help,” Agostine said.
The Board of Education spent $43,000 on snow removal following the storm.
Board members support decisions
BOE Chairman Darrell Trump defended the decisions made by Agostine, saying they are difficult ones. Trump said critics simply were “Monday morning quarterbacking.”
BOE member Mark Antinozzi told Agostine he “made the right call” because it would have been dangerous for children to be on the roads waiting for buses or walking to school due to all the high snow banks and slippery road conditions.
BOE member Kelly Plunkett agreed. “As a parent, I appreciate that safety is No. 1 with you,” she said.
“It seems the naysayers forget that not every neighborhood has sidewalks” Plunkett added.