Officials Split On Decision To Close Area Schools

For the second time in as many weeks, an abundance of overnight snowfall forced area school superintendents to make a difficult decision.

While several inches of snow accumulation on Friday morning forced several districts to cancel classes for the day, more districts carried on with classes.

The list of schools that had closed for the day included Sherman, Pine Valley and Jamestown Public Schools. With the majority of schools remaining open, many concerned parents took to social networking to speak their minds. In a response to a Facebook post by The Post-Journal, parents commented on the decisions made by area schools of whether or not to cancel.

“(I’m) glad Jamestown did the right thing and canceled.” said Jennifer Marie-Ames.

“Since my daughter’s bus went in a ditch last week, I wish Panama was closed,” said Vicki Daniels.

“I drive from Sherman to Lakewood and it was very bad, with almost zero visibility at times,” said Stephanie Eimers Seekings. “Good call for Sherman school.”

“My kids go to Falconer,” said Jill Olsen-Waddington. “The conditions were terrible. You couldn’t see the bus until it was at the driveway with the lights flashing. (The) bus was 25 minutes late, too.”

According to superintendents, however, the decision to remain open was made prior to a last-minute change in weather patterns. According to Steve Penhollow, superintendent of Falconer Central School, the weather turned bad quickly and unexpectedly.

“When the storm band that rolled through this morning hit us, and it hit us hard, we had already started the transportation process,” said Penhollow. “We have a process that usually begins around 5 in the morning. We start by communicating with our transportation supervisor, and then we talk with local town supervisors as well as other drivers (regarding road conditions). We checked the radar, and it looked like that (weather) band was supposed to be north of us, but that’s obviously not the way it happened.”

He added: “We try to make our final decision by 6 in the morning, and we make it based on the fact that we think we can get our kids in (to school) and back home safely. Our reason for (holding school) today was that we believed we could do that.”

Falconer’s scenario was corroborated by Jacqueline Latshaw, superintendent of Bemus Point Central School, who said that she was not expecting road conditions to deteriorate as much as they did.

“We talked with our bus transportation supervisor as well as plow drivers and, at that point, everyone felt that (conditions) seemed ok,” said Latshaw. “It didn’t appear to be a problem when we sent out our buses, which is typically at 5 a.m. Sometimes (the weather) can all change within an hour, and at that point, what decision can you make?”

By midday, the weather in the Randolph area was so poor that the town issued a “No Unnecessary Travel” order, though the Randolph Central School district was still in session. According to Dave Chambers, school business executive at Randolph, the order was issued by the town because plows were having difficulty keeping up with snow accumulation.

“The kids are safer here with us (at the school) than they would be if we sent them home (early) in these conditions,” said Chambers. “So the kids will go home at the regularly scheduled time. The plows are out now and we feel like (the roads) should be OK by that time.”

Due to a lake effect snow warning, which was in effect until Friday at 6 p.m. in Chautauqua County, most districts that did hold classes opted to cancel all after-school activities.