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'Challenging' Weather: How Yorktown Schools Make Decisions

It's been a "challenging" weather pattern, as Yorktown School District Assistant Superintendent of Business Tom Cole described it at a recent school board meeting. 

Since winter began, officials have used three snow days out of five, along with numerous school delays and the most recent early closing on Tuesday.

Cole said there are various factors school officials have to consider before making a decision: snow accumulations, whether the roads and certain parts of town are safe, and how quickly can the school district get their campuses ready. 

He typically has a conference call with superintendents of other neighboring school districts starting at 4 a.m. to discuss whether to operate on a delay or close schools entirely. After speaking to highway and police department personnel, as well, that decision is made by 4:30 a.m. or 4:45 a.m. 

The first two inches of snowfall are most dangerous, Cole said, which is why school officials are "so sensitive to any precipitation that's not cleared right away."

The order in which students are picked up is: high school students first, then middle school, grades 4 and 5; and finally kindergarten through third grade. The first school bus is out on the road by 6 a.m., Cole said. 

"So when we are making decisions about delaying school for instance, we're thinking about the fact that it may be snowing currently, but we have to get beyond the weather, so that when the first buses are on the road they are in a situation where they are safe," Cole said. 

Although the Yorktown School District is a mid-size district, buses travel a significant amount of distance to pick up students. At any time, there are 60 vehicles out on the roads that are traveling diffferent lengths of time. Some can travel all the way to the Ossining border, the Mt. Kisco or the Cortlandt and Peekskill borders. 

Jackie Carbone, president of the Yorktown school board, said she wants residents to know that even if Route 202 has been cleared well by 6 a.m., that does not mean that the trucks have had the chance to get to the outskirts of town and that the backroads school busses travel on had been treated by then. 

Cole explained that another important factor they consider is how quickly the school district can get the campus ready because of a "couple of miles of sidewalks" that have to be treated.

State law in New York requires at least 180 school days, individual districts—including those experiencing identical weather—often have different ways of accommodating cancellations within the academic calendar.

Here's the breakdown the Yorktown School District's snow days as of Jan. 22:
  • The district has five inclement weather days built into the calendar. If they are exceeded, make up days will be taken in the following order: Monday, April 14; Thursday, April 17; Tuesday, April 15; Wednesday, April 16; Friday, April 18

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