By: Emily Jankauski
Photo: The Village of Mahomet has certainly seen its fair share of snow this winter. Main Street was covered in a blanket of white during one to three inches of snowfall received on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.
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Knee-deep in winter, February often marks a turning point in East Central Illinois weather. Whether you believe in Punxsutawney Phil’s winter predictions or not, last week’s dumping of snow served as a reminder that winter is here to stay.
With the snowfall, some residents may have wondered whether Mahomet-Seymour would see its first snow day, which the M-S school district refers to as a weather-related school closing.
“The anticipation and excitement starts when people see a forecast and the superintendent and the teachers all start to think about the weather,” M-S Superintendent Lindsey Hall said.
Weather-related school closings and early dismissals rest solely on the superintendent’s shoulders. Though the decision is never an easy one to make, Hall understands not everyone will agree with her decision to open or close school.
“Superintendents everywhere know that there’s a segment of the population that’s not going to be happy with this,” she said, “but trust and understand that a huge amount of thought has gone into it and probably a lot of sleep loss and ample research prior to making a decision to stay open or close; it’s not fly-by-night by any means.”
Hall reassures the decision to open or close school is one that is well thought out and requires much deliberation. She takes experts’ opinions into account, such as the National Weather Service’s issuance of wind chill advisories or meteorologists’ snowfall predictions or cautions of icy conditions.
“There’s no formula,” Hall said. “I look at the forecast the night before. The other thing I take into consideration is how much the forecast is changing. I can pull up the hourly report on my phone and every hour it tells me something different — that’s something to consider as well.”
Hall’s decision is often one that involves multiple people, such as the M-S director of transportation, Jeremy Roark, and consultation with township supervisors.
“We (Hall and Roark) go out really early in the morning and drive some country roads. That’s somewhat of an indication,” she said. “There are parts of our school district where there may be more drifting and we want to keep our eyes on those areas. I like to be able to say that things were okay or not.”
So far this year, things have been excellent with the district using zero weather-related school closings, and Hall thanked the village of Mahomet’s crew for its “outstanding” efforts to handle the elements.
“I have never had any worry about conditions here in town,” she added. “The folks who take care of the roads are doing a great job.”
The latest Hall makes her call is 6 a.m. as she realizes how much the decision impacts others’ schedules.
“I like to aim for 5:30 or 5:45 a.m.,” she said, “but I’m up long before that and so are a lot of other folks around 4:30 a.m. accessing the situation.”
In the event of a weather-related school closing, parents receive notice via email, phone call and text. The district also utilizes its social media platforms and alerts the local media and TV stations of all closings.
The ability to call school is no small matter for Hall. She realizes the importance of her decisions and its implications for parents, students and staff.
“For some of our kids, school is the warmest place, it also provides two meals for our students that they might be depending on and it’s a good place for our kiddos to be.”
Hall admits she would much rather be in school than have to call a weather-related school closing and make the day up at the end of the year.
“I know that lots of kids and sometimes our staff really want a snow day,” she said, “but I’d rather go in school in January and February than in May.”