When the weather forecasters start talking about snow, Gretna superintendant of schools Dr. Kevin Riley starts talking to his peers.
Riley said he’s in contact with all 11 school districts in the Learning Community nearly a day in advance of any potential snow day.
“We start talking about all things,” he said Friday after just calling off school Feb. 5 for a snow day. “Like, with Wednesday, at 7:30 at night, we decided to call it. You have to help parents plan if you can. There’s so much daycare need, and parents have to find a place for their kids.”
Riley said he can remember being a student and not knowing school was cancelled until early in the morning. And while that’s still a possibility, he said cancelling the night before is better for most families.
But what happens when it starts to snow during the school day?
“That’s the biggest nightmare for us, when it starts to snow at 8 a.m.,” he said. “Do we send the kids home early?”
The problem with that, he said, is all the elementary students to have to call their parents and find out where to go.
“Have you ever listened to a kindergartener call their parents and find out where they’re going to go?” Riley said. “That’s why, generally, school stays in all day. The parents are allowed to get them anytime, of course.”
If it starts snowing in the morning, Riley said it’s best to keep the kids in school and let the street crews do their jobs without having to worry about school buses.
“Let the plows get out and start moving the snow,” he said. “If you get buses out too early, you can have a real problem.”
One of the other major factors for Gretna is looking beyond how much snow is in the city.
“We have 70 square miles of land, most of which is county roads,” Riley said. “What people fail to remember is buses travel those county roads, and they drift, unlike what happens in town.”
On top of snow, Riley said a wind chill warning will almost always trigger a school cancellation.
“It comes down to student safety,” he said. “Snow and cold are those things we have to consider.”