It's Happening: The Process Behind Snow Days

By Julie Perine on January 23, 2018 from It’s Happening via

From the first drop of a severe weather advisory – be it proposed snow accumulation or the forecast of frigid temperatures – school students across Harrison County have one thing on their minds: Will there be school tomorrow?
Dr. Mark Manchin, superintendent of Harrison County Schools, explained how a decision is made to delay or cancel school for the day.
“The county school superintendent makes that decision,” said Manchin about the responsibility under his own jurisdiction. “It is defined clearly that he or she can cancel or delay school anytime he or she thinks conditions make it too dangerous.”
It is a decision, he said, which is taken very seriously and one for which information is gathered and considered.
“Say it is on the news one day that we’re supposed to get two to four inches of snow the following day at 6 a.m. We wouldn’t cancel school the night before, because sometimes we don’t get the snow. It might turn to rain, for example,” Manchin said.
During nights under those types of weather forecasts, Manchin said he gets little to no sleep. He stays connected with those checking on road conditions and he connects with the Harrison County assistant superintendent of operations and facilities at about 4 a.m.
 “That used to be Anthony Fratto, but he has retired and Jimmy Lopez has taken over that position,” Manchin said.
Manchin said he phone rings around 4 a.m. or 4:30 a.m., with that individual – after speaking with representatives of the National Weather Service and West Virginia Department of Highways – apprising Manchin of his findings. Also taken into consideration are delays and closings of neighboring/nearby counties, but that also brings other factors into play.
“For example, Marion and Monongalia counties may close, but conditions might be worse there than in Harrison County,” Manchin said. “These decisions are not easy.”
Once that 4 a.m. phone conversation takes place, Manchin decides if a school cancellation or delay is necessary. In most cases, he considers the delay first. If bitter cold temperatures are a factor, it will likely be a three-hour delay, he said. If considered necessary, a delay gives more time to consider a school cancellation.
“By 6:30 a.m., we have to make that decision,” he said.
Manchin said these days, he typically airs on the side of caution. It’s better to be safe than sorry, he said.
Connect-Bridgeport posts delays and cancellations for Harrison County Schools as soon as a decision has been made. We receive that information from Todd Poole, supervisor of technology and information for Harrison County Schools.
And, of course, those of us who are parents, receive that early morning text or call. In addition to delays and closings of Harrison County Schools, Connect-Bridgeport posts a link to the West Virginia Department of Education, listing statewide closings, delays and early dismissals. 

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