Schools' snow days are melting away

By Joe Moskowitz
This may be the winter of everyone’s discontent. There has been too much snow for the haters, but warm-ups and rain have melted the snow that skiers and those who depend on snow, such as plow operators, need to make their living. Despite the snowmelts, there have been periods of bitter cold, which have stretched already thin heating budgets. And, it’s still just early January.
Despite modern technology, major weather events have been difficult to predict and that is making life tough for the people who are entrusted with deciding if it is safe to drive the big trucks carrying our most precious cargo. 
Margaretville Central School Superintendent Tony Albanese said the temperature was 51 degrees when he drove into work Monday morning and it was raining. That melted most of the foot of snow that had fallen just a few days before.
Albanese said the temperature was three degrees below zero when he drove into work the next day and it didn’t warm up much during the day. A 54-degree temperature drop in January is not unheard of, but can be difficult to adjust to. 
A temperature of minus three degrees is not at all rare in the Catskills in January, but it was expected to get worse, and with a significant wind. Albanese decided it was best to open school Tuesday on a two-hour delay. The thermometer had reached a balmy zero degrees when the first bell rang. Stamford and Roxbury were among the area schools that remained closed all day Tuesday.
Albanese said it is a very difficult decision and every district is different. He said Stamford for example, has many more kids walking to school than Margaretville does, so cold may be more of a factor. Margaretville has a 160-square-mile district, so road conditions, sometimes flooding have to be taken into consideration. 

Many factors
Albanese said that superintendents spend hours on the computer, and sometimes they just go outside and look, in an attempt to get the best information they can before deciding whether to open schools on time, delay the opening, or remain closed, but he said as conditions can change from one mountain to another, it can be a very tough call.
Albanese said the goal is to try and do what is best for everyone with the safety of the kids, drivers, teachers and other staff the priority. Most upstate schools set aside six snow days per year. If more are taken, the days must be made up out of vacation time or the district is subject to losing state aid.
It is far too early in the season to predict if any district will be in danger of that happening, but Albanese, just two days back from a two-week break where he didn’t have to make any decisions, said it has already been a tough winter.