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Snow day drama: AASD's decision sparks frustration, superintendent reveals behind-the-scenes process

Children in Peshtigo, Oconto enjoy their snow day
Posted at 7:00 PM, Jan 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-10 20:30:56-05
  • Appleton Area School District's decision to cancel classes the afternoon before the storm sparked frustration among some parents.
  • AASD superintendent sheds light on the complex process behind snow day decisions.
  • How AASD administration members are gearing up for the next snowstorm.

After a predicted blast of winter on Tuesday, Appleton Area School District students returned to their classrooms Wednesday. While the district's decision to cancel classes frustrated some parents, it also sparked questions about how these decisions are made.

As the first snow day of the season unfolded, parents with students in the district, Trevor Kiesow, voiced their concerns.

Kiesow suggested that the decision to cancel school may have been premature, emphasizing the challenges parents face in balancing work commitments with inclement weather.

Amanda Mackowski, also an AASD parent said, “I think they should have a little bit more of an insight in how the weather is going to be before they make any definitive decisions. Just because they have missed so much school in the past couple of years.”

To gain insights into the snow day decision-making process, we spoke with Appleton Area School District Superintendent Greg Hartjes. Hartjes detailed the multiple factors that go into calling off school, starting with a reliance on weather forecasts.

The superintendent says the district takes into account the predicted timing, duration, and intensity of a storm. With a projected storm, the process begins days in advance.

“If it was a snowstorm happening overnight, we would have waited until the morning to see where we were with the snowstorm to call it but because the most challenging part of the storm yesterday (Tuesday) was predicted between 2 in the afternoon and 5 when our kids would have been going home. That’s why we made that decision earlier,” says Superintendent Hardjes.

Hartjes outlined the considerations that administrators weigh when deciding on a snow day.

Factors include; ensuring faculty and staff can maintain clear sidewalks and parking lots, coordinating with Valley Transit and city road crews, checking with other municipalities in the district, and ensuring plowing of city streets.

“We weren't concerned with the morning commute to school… for students or staff or parents for bringing their kids in.. it was what happens if we are at school and the weather is so bad at 3:30 that we can't get our 15,000 kids home safely,” Hartjes aads.

The superintendent also emphasized that the decision is not solely based on the amount of snow but also hinges on when the snow is expected and the district's ability to safely clear sidewalks and roads.

Planning for the next big snowstorm expected by the week’s end, AASD administration members are prepared. Hartjes says they are attending multiple National Weather Service Webinars this week to stay ahead of the information.

Administration officials also say the district builds in 2 to 3 snow days in the schedule to make sure students don’t miss required hours of instruction for the year and say over the past 12 years, the district has averaged 1.5 snow days per year.