To Cancel or Not to Cancel: A Look Inside the Decision to Call a Snow Day

It usually begins a few days before.  Local weathermen begin to forecast snow or sleet or freezing rain.  Students and teachers start to buzz.  You can hear a small roar in the hallways: “snow day! snow day! snow day!”  What the students and many teachers don’t know is what goes in to a decision to cancel school. 
A few days ahead of time, we start to watch the weather and look at the calendar.  What events could be affected?  How many snow days do we have built in? Will busses be in use? These are just some of the questions we ask.
As the weather moves in, we watch it closely especially for ice and snow fall amounts and at what time the weather will move in.  Mike Collier. a 2000 BK grad, at Channel 8 does a great job on TV and social media keeping the weather updated so we rely on him quite a bit. At the high school level, we have to take into account the fact that several hundred teenagers, many of them very new drivers, get themselves to school each day.  Our Catholic grade schools don’t have this issue.  
As the weather moves in, it’s very common that local public schools begin to cancel events and even school. I do not envy the superintendents of our local public school systems.  They have dozens of schools, thousands of students, hundreds of teachers and bus routes, oh the bus routes.  The condition of the roads make bus driving very difficult and this often leads to cancellations. Temperature is also a factor for public school systems as many kids stand outside waiting for the bus.  If temperatures are too cold, these students are at risk and this can lead to school cancellation.
With sleet and snow coming down, the students take to their phones and begin to lobby that school be closed.  They take to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine with tales of snow packed neighborhoods, icy roads, slippery driveways, and near miss accidents.  These messages are aimed mostly at me and are often very, very funny.  During the recent storm, one student drove to Bishop Kelley and took pictures of the roads around the school to show that driving to school would be impossible,  He took pictures of the parking lot to show that one wouldn’t be able to get into the parking lot.  The only problem? He took the pictures in the parking lot.  I think we call this irony.
It’s common that BK administrators will call around town and see how conditions are in various parts of town.  Knowing that BK has students from 56 different zip codes, we have to get a feel for conditions all around the Tulsa metro area.  It’s also common that administrators will get out on the roads and drive around.  This takes place in the evenings or in the morning, whenever we need to make a call on whether to have school or not.
There are also many conversations that take place between schools.  When weather moves in, I typically speak with Roger Carter, Headmaster of Cascia Hall, Pete Theban, Principal at Marquette and Matt Vereecke, Director of Monte Cassino School.  These conversations are to get a feel for what other schools are doing.  A consensus usually comes together after a few conversations.
When it comes down to it, student and teacher safety is our top priority.  We take it on a case by case basis because every weather situation is different. It depends on temperature, snow fall amounts, ice, road conditions, what other schools are doing, and the condition of our parking lot and streets around BK. All I can say is that when I went to seminary and was ordained a priest, I never thought I would need to know so much about meteorology!

About Rev. Brian O'Brien

Priest of the Diocese of Tulsa and President of Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, OK.
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