CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Superintendent of Schools said county school superintendents have to weigh many factors before deciding whether to close schools because of weather — a process that has happened in all 55 counties every day this week.
“The first thing that’s foremost in your mind is the safety of children, particularly after you’ve had a huge snowstorm,” said state Superintendent Dr. James Phares, a former superintendent in Pocahontas, Randolph and Marion counties, on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“Everybody thinks, after they’ve plowed the main roads, that you ought to get the kids back in school. It doesn’t happen that way.” Many times, he said, even after the main roads are cleared of snow, the secondary roads and bus stops are not or it’s too cold to start the buses or there’s a threat of more winter weather.
All 55 county school systems in West Virginia were closed on both Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, schools in 46 counties were closed and nine were delayed. On Friday, schools in 49 counties and six were delayed.
“Conditions are improving in parts of the state, but it’s still, this is a major question all across the state,” said Phares, who admitted it’s difficult to satisfy everyone with school day decisions based on weather.
“I will guarantee you that, in every one of these counties, each day, there were multiple calls to county offices, county transportation directors, (from) people who were even disagreeing with a delay or even when it it’s called off.”
Because of the restrictions on the current school calendar, many county school systems have no more days to use to make up snow days and so will miss the state requirement of 180 days of instruction this year.
Phares said that will change during the next school year when new school calendar provisions, which are part of the education reform law, are implemented to allow for more flexibility. Missing the 180 day requirement will not be an option with the new law.
For now, the current law stands and there could be more snow days next week.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service were calling for several inches of snow in parts of West Virginia over the weekend. More cold temperatures, back down below zero degrees or in the single digits, were also possible for the new school week.