Is Two Hours of School More Important than Our Students’ Safety?
February 14, 2017
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On Monday, February 13, the Stamford Public Schools system failed to put students’ safety before their education. A delay should have been announced.
For those of you who may not recall: after a short recovery from Winter Storm “Niko” last Thursday, Stamford experienced additional inclement weather ranging from snow to sleet to rain, which ended late Sunday night. By nightfall, the temperature had increased to just above freezing; however, a wind advisory had been put into effect by the state, with gusts of winds reaching up to 60 mph. Wind chill combined with slushy, wet conditions resulted in slippery, ice-covered roads by sunrise.
Knowing that thousands of school children would be riding buses, hundreds of teens would be driving, and that black ice and snow made for impaired driving conditions, then why wasn’t a 2-hour delay announced on Monday?
Before anyone can make any assumptions, we must consider the extensive process the superintendent goes through before ultimately making the decision as to whether or not school is delayed or closed. According to the Stamford Public Schools website, “Before any decision is made, the Superintendent consults with the City of Stamford Operations Department, Board of Education Transportation, Board of Education Facilities, Emergency Management Office, local weather services, and surrounding school districts.”
Despite tweets from trusted CT/NY weather provider @SWCTweather, or outlets like Fox 61 weather advising people that conditions were unsafe for travel, school continued as scheduled. In fact, Norwalk, a town only 15 minutes from Stamford, had announced delays by 5:30 a.m. on Monday morning. It is unclear what intel our neighbors had that we were not aware of. While I commend SPS for cancelling school well in advance before Thursday’s snowstorm, informing us a day before on Wednesday, I also conclude that not announcing a delay Monday put students and teachers at risk of injury or worse.
The consensus at Stamford High School, from those driving in from all over Stamford and other towns to get to school, was overwhelmingly in favor of at least a delay on Monday. Roads were simply unsuitable to drive on, and travel time increased considerably. Nick Lucenti, a Stamford High School student said he “spun out this morning [Monday],” and another SHS student, Jacob Adams, “literally did a 360 in the car on Club Road.”
Social Studies teacher Jeremy White, who travels from Norwalk, agreed that a delay should have been called. He said that, “driveways and local roads were far worse than main roads; I slid down my entire driveway, about 10-15 feet long.”
This alludes to a larger issue. The City of Stamford Operations Department, BOE Transportation, and all other departments the superintendent may consult with likely have a strong understanding of the status of main roads, but may not know the conditions of side roads as well as they think. SHS senior Randy Malak said, “I take mostly back roads to get to school. I couldn’t believe how icy those streets actually were, even with all the salt they put down.”
I also had a dangerous encounter on Monday morning, when my all-wheel-drive SUV slid a few feet forward, almost sliding into an intersection near my house—luckily, there was no oncoming traffic. But the danger didn’t stop there. With some patchy ice spots on the main roads, motorists had to take extra precautions to drive well below the speed limit to ensure their safety.
Additionally, as side roads came into play (as, for many people, they do), drifting on black ice became a common occurrence. Locals appeared concerned as well; a user of a neighborhood watch app named Laurie voiced her concerns online, saying, “I live on Club Circle and cannot get my kids to school because of ice on Club;” the same user later asked if anyone knew of a person she could call for salting.
Places such as Holcomb Rd., adjacent to Stamford High School, cannot be avoided when accessing the student lot. That hill was an absolute mess. Not only was it icy, but the road even still had snow buildup from the past storm that wasn’t plowed away. As for the student lot, the serious matter turned comical when I witnessed two students slip and fall on the black ice immediately after stepping out of their cars (luckily, they appeared unhurt). We’re fortunate that no one was seriously injured in this event, as driving in these conditions had the potential for tragedies to occur.
The decision to not have a delay Monday was a poor one. Driving to school was dangerous, and another two hours would have allowed the ice on the roads to start melting and given drivers ample time to arrive at school. Although hindsight is always 20/20, we can use this ill-advised decision to improve procedures such as taking a better look at side roads, and hopefully be more cautious in future decisions. The safety of our students and faculty members is far more important than two hours more of school.