The Decision Is In…A look at the other side of a snow day

It is without a doubt that the 2018 winter season began with a surprise. Just two days after students returned from winter break, bitterly cold temperatures enveloped the Richmond area, followed by several inches of snow.

On Jan. 5th, Godwin received nearly three inches of snow, closing schools as expected. However, with sub-freezing temperatures, it effectively froze, creating dangerous, slick spots on roads. In effect, schools did not reopen until the following Wednesday, disrupting teachers’ plans for lessons, quizzes or tests, and preparation for midterm exams.

For students, a typical snow day calls for sleeping in past normal time, catching up with schoolwork, going sledding, perhaps, and much more. It is essentially a free day for students, where they can do as they please, waiting for the next tweet to see if the relaxation can continue for another day.

Nonetheless, on Nine Mile Road, the work begins several days in advance, according to Communications Director Andy Jenks.

“On the evening or morning of a storm, several members of our Transportation department will get out and drive the roads to get a sense of what conditions would be like for bus drivers, student drivers, and those who walk to school,” he said.

“If we feel the conditions will be unsafe, then a recommendation will be made to the superintendent to potentially close or delay the opening of school,” said Jenks.

Once the suggestion reaches superintendent Dr. Patrick Kinlaw, it is up to him to make the final decision, according to Jenks. The decision is then made and relayed back to the Communications department to send the final message.

While students enjoyed the year’s first winter storm relaxing and catching up with schoolwork, Henrico County maintenance crews plowed, shoveled, and laid salt on roads and sidewalks in order for students to return to school as quickly as possible.

However, with below-freezing temperatures lingering after the storm, it took four snow days for students to return safely to schools.

Speculation arose upon students’ returning that mid-term exams may have been on the chopping list, and students anxiously waited for Jenks’ messages thereafter. The following day, he made an announcement regarding the exams, stating that they would be cancelled.

Coincidentally, mid-term exams have not been taken since the 2014-2015 school year because of January snow. Many students have expressed joy at the fact that they have not taken them, but some say not taking them affects students’ experience on future exams in high school or college.

“Last year we surveyed principals, teachers, students and parents about the best way to handle mid-term exams if we were to lose two or more days of instruction due to weather. The feedback we received indicated that we should cancel exams and instead devote that time to classroom instruction,” said Jenks. “While we feel exams are important, we feel the additional instructional time is more important.”

Because of the consistent January snow, mid-term exams will now be taken in December, beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, according to Jenks.

“We hope to avoid complications caused by inclement weather,” he said.

As the next winter storm occurs, Henrico County Public Schools assure that they will have crews working to clear snow and resume classes safely and promptly.

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