Snow Day Decisions Are Not Made Lightly
Besides learning the new ropes of his job as Wetzel County Superintendent of Schools, Dennis J. Albright has also had to learn the long and winding roads of Wetzel County. Furthermore, thanks to the unusually bitter cold and snowy winter the area has faced this year, Albright has had to take these roads into account when deciding whether or not to cancel school for the county.
.After everyone else’s work day ends, Albright keeps an eye to the sky. He stated that usually he is sitting at home, watching the radar during evenings when inclement weather is upon the horizon. Albright also spends much of this time talking to Wetzel County Schools’ Director of Transportation Brian Jones. As of Monday afternoon, Albright stated he had already talked to Jones two to three times. The two also talk to the Department of Highways just as often, because they are checking on conditions of secondary roads.
The two decision makers converse about school cancellations sometimes as early as 4 a.m. They try to make a two-hour delay at the latest by 4:45-5 a.m. Albright states that the latest the two decide to cancel school is usually by 6:45-7 a.m. He states that he likes to wait until the deadline to make the decision, especially in the case of temperature reasons because the jetstream pattern can create big differences. For instance, whether the temperature is below zero or whether it is 20 degrees above zero changes decisions. The situation can change so quickly, that Albright laughs when stating that before he has had to update the automated school phone messenger in the McDonald’s parking lot, feeding off of their WiFi.
Thanks in part to the work of Albright and Jones, there have been no major bus accidents. “The school bus drivers are very good in the winter,” Albright remarked.
One bit of controversy that has arisen as the temperatures have lowered is the fact that Wetzel County staff now has to report when students do not.
This changed after Wetzel County Schools ran out of make up days for the students to attend classes. After that point, then the staff will get paid for the snow days, so Wetzel County Schools requires them to report.
Albright states this has always been the case with Wetzel County Schools, prior to when he was superintendent. However, it’s a policy he appears to back, as he takes the children of Wetzel County Schools into account.
At the Feb. 24 Wetzel County School Calendar meeting at Hundred High School, Albright remarked that taxpayers would be less likely to vote on a school board levy if staff failed to report on days when school was cancelled, yet they would be paid. Albright stated at the meeting, and again reiterated the fact Monday afternoon, that roughly $90,000 is paid in salaries a day.
At Monday’s meeting, Albright stated that this time not teaching can be spent in other productive ways. He stated that as a teacher, he enjoyed time alone in the classroom. He stated this time could be spent by teachers getting caught up on lesson plans and filing.
He added that if an employee cannot report to school due to weather, they should take a leave day or sick day. Furthermore, he reiterated the fact that teachers report to school on snow days, has been a “long-standing tradition in Wetzel County.”
However, Albright noted that next year, due to the legislative changes that have taken place on the state-level, the issue would be a “moot point” because students will be required to attend 180 days of school, meaning all snow days will be made up by both students and staff.