LCPS Superintendent Talks All Things Snow Days

Shane Sellers, Staff Writer

For ages, students have wondered what goes through the mind of a superintendent when it comes to calling off a day of school for a snow day. Let’s take a look into the mind of L’Anse Creuse Public Schools’ Superintendent Erik Edoff. He sat down and discussed all things snow days and what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Most kids sit down the night before a weather event and often wonder what criteria it takes for a snow day or a cold day. Is there a set criteria for the amount of snow? How about the temperature for a cold day?

“There is not an automatic line that we use or what the decision is made on. The decision is based on getting to what we think the conditions will be when school opens,” said Superintendent Erik Edoff.

Edoff added, “Judging safety the best we can is the most important thing, but there is no magic number.”

He did, however, note that, “Snow, I think, is a little bit easier to deal with than ice. Students might not want to hear that, but it’s been the ice that makes me more nervous than snow.”

Students this winter have been lucky with the amount of snow days. The district is currently at seven days off. Students and parents often ask: how many days is a district allowed to burn through without having to make any time up?

Edoff answers, “The state law allows us to get six automatically, and then you can apply for 3 more. We have been told by the state that they will grant our waiver when we apply. I plan on applying within the next couple weeks.”

After the waiver has been granted, Edoff noted the district will have two days remaining for possible days off before time will be made up. If, for some reason, L’Anse Creuse does go over the allotted days, the superintendent has some crafty ways up his sleeve to make sure students do not have to cut into their summer vacation.

“Instead of adding days to the end of the year, we could just add minutes to the rest of the remaining days in the school year. So maybe everyone is staying in school a couple extra minutes, and that way there is no need to add an extra day,” he said.

For the teachers, parents, and students out there worried about days potentially being made up during spring break, don’t be.

Edoff said, “I heard of another district in the thumb that eliminated spring break. We will not do that because, number one, people will be upset by that, and number two, people have made plans already and there wouldn’t be enough kids to come to school on those days for it to count as a school day.”

The superintendent also proposed an alternative solution if we go over the days allowed.

“We could turn a couple half days into full days, and that would fix it. For now we shouldn’t have to do that,” he said.

Parents often gripe when school is called off at 5 a.m. It’s difficult balancing the needs of parents to have a sitter, but at the same time, be positive that the weather forecast is definitive.

He said, “If the forecast is the same, and everyone’s supposed to get a ton of snow, then we will decide the night before. If it’s one of these ice deals, then you’re not sure. I don’t want to [waste a snow day] if it might just be rain.”

The question then becomes: by what time will it be when students should know for sure whether there is school or not?

Edoff said, “If you don’t decide before 5 then it’s not just the high schoolers, but it’s the bus drivers that need to know if they have to go to work.”

He also wanted the parents to understand the logic behind this. He noted, “While I know parents are angry when we call it off early in the morning, it used to be the only way we’d do it. The old way is, you woke up, and you waited to see if your school was listed on the TV. That used to be the only way.”

One of the little known facts about what goes on behind-the-scenes is that superintendents from the surrounding areas actually have a conference call to make a group decision. That is why very rarely a neighboring district will call off school while another one stays open.

He said, “We definitely like to stay together [on our decision] with other districts along M-59. This year, a couple other districts have made their own decision.”

What are the very rare times that districts sway from the group decision? Edoff says it usually has to do with the type of roads in the district.

“In Romeo it might be icy, but in Roseville it might be all snow,” Edoff said.

The superintendent also noted, “I would talk to [other superintendents] and ask ‘Why did you close’. If they said ‘It’s because of dirt roads’, then I’m not as worried about that because we don’t have very many dirt roads.”

That answers the question for Anchor Bay. He stressed that they have more back roads than L’Anse Creuse, and so oftentimes that is why there is a slight discrepancy between the districts.

He did say, however, “I think if we’re collectively making a decision, it sends a stronger message about student safety.”

If the roads do appear bad, and school still has not been cancelled, Edoff has a plan in place. He wanted high school drivers, especially, to know that people do drive around in the early hours of the morning to test road conditions.

During the school week of January 28 through February 1, students missed four school days due to extreme weather. While the snow didn’t start coming down until midafternoon on Monday the 28th, Edoff says it was the right decision.

“While it didn’t start snowing until like 2, it was pretty bad by then,” Edoff said.

The next day, the snow had stopped falling by Tuesday morning. The only issue was the school parking lots had not been adequately plowed before school was scheduled to start.

“We didn’t have all the parking lots cleared off. Our guys were overworked, and they had to take a break in the middle of the night on Tuesday, so we had to call off because of that. That can make a difference, and sometimes that’s why we call off,” he said.

High school students remember that week as the never-ending exams week. Superintendent Edoff was quick to point out that the exams had been put off five separate school days. That begs the question: how close was it to the district cancelling exams completely this year? Very close, he said.

“We talked seriously about not even having the 5th and 6th hour exams. I kind of pushed for having them because some kids are counting on that exam. If you are borderline failing, or trying to bump a B up to an A, then that makes a real difference. That’s why I pushed to get it done. We probably will never have that happen again,” he hoped.

During that crazy week, students were often frequenting the ever-popular Twitter account of Edoff (his twitter handle is @LC_Edoff if you haven’t already given him a follow). What does he think about his increase in Twitter followers lately?

“I think it’s great. Kids love it. People’s comments make me laugh when they say ‘Come on’ or ‘come through for us’,” he joked.

Oftentimes on his Twitter, the comments have nothing to do with student safety, but just that they want a day off. Nearly every student believes this is Edoff’s most important responsibility- to call snow days.

He said, “I think student safety is top priority, so if you put it in that category, it is the most important. As far as just because kids think [snow days] are great, not really. I think it’s important for safety, but it’s not for the reason students think it is.”

To end the interview off, Edoff was asked about the possibility of a snow day for the next day. If students remember, there was a good amount of snow on the ground Wednesday, February 27th. Edoff was certain that there would be school the next day.

“Winter weather advisory is always sort of a pay attention, but not a for sure thing. Winter storm warnings are definitely more serious. 1-3 inches means we are going to school. A few inches of snow is something we’ve been going to school with since we were kids,” he proclaimed.

There was certainly a large group of people who thought there would be very few snow days this winter season at all. Edoff was in that group as well.

He admitted, “It’s been a crazy winter. I thought for a long time it was going to only be a one or even no snow day winter. I’ve never seen it where we’ve had this many in as short amount of time. It’s been incredible.”

With the winter season winding down (hopefully), Edoff wants to clear the air about a gripe parents, students, teachers, and others seem to always complain about when there is only a day or two remaining before days are needed to be made up.

“You don’t call snow days based on how many you have left or whether it’s convenient or not, that’s just not part of the equation,” reminded Edoff.