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Why are Massachusetts school districts deciding snow days so early?

Question Everything: Why do school districts decide snow days so early?
Question Everything: Why do school districts decide snow days so early? 03:11

BOSTON - Dozens of schools north and west of Boston had snow days on Tuesday, despite very little to no snow in the area.

Many of these districts called off school sometime Monday afternoon. But as that call was being made, the forecast was shifting, calling for a storm that would hit further south, and according to our own Eric Fisher, not be much of an impactful event north of Boston. Still, districts from the North Shore to the Merrimack Valley even to MetroWest canceled class.

"I'm feeling that this was a wasted day of learning," said Dr. Daniel Gutekanst, the Superintendent of Needham Public Schools for the last 18 years. "I typically make the call on the morning of a storm, because that's when you get the best information."

In this particular storm, however, Dr. Gutekanst noticed that many districts surrounding Needham had already started canceling on Monday afternoon and evening. Plus, a National Weather Service Meteorologist said there would still be snow.

Dr. Gutekanst admits he would've made a different decision if he had waited until Tuesday morning, but he has learned over the years not to let negative feedback get to him. "I've learned not to worry about the feedback because families were upset that we had school. There are families who are upset that we're not having school, that you made the call too early, or you made the call too late," he said. Next time - he says he'll wait until the day of school before canceling.

Other superintendents, like Dan Bauer of Danvers, are dealing with calling snow days in their first year on the job. "A lot actually goes into the decision," Bauer told WBZ. "And certainly, watching the news all weekend, and seeing a storm that was coming, and just trying to really determine where it will impact. But I think the biggest concern is always the safety of our students and staff."

Three particular factors contribute to the timing of a snow day call, the superintendents say:

  1.  Improving scientific technology allows for better and more accurate forecasts earlier.
  2.  Neighboring communities need to be on the same page to help commuting staff.  
  3.  Families often have all working parents and need time to plan for childcare.  

Still, some parents who were out with their kids on the Tuesday snow day tell WBZ, with constant access to information on their phones, they'd rather the call came later. "I think they probably need to go back to how they used to do it and wait until the day of before they cancel school because it was canceled last night at 5 o'clock," said Belmont parent Scott Wentzell.

That's something Dr. Gutekanst definitely plans to do during the next storm. "I think in New England you have to wait as long as possible, because the priority should be going to school if you can, and that means waiting as long as you can for the information," he said.

If you have a question you'd like us to look into, please email   

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