‘Sno luck for students who want snow days

School is reluctant to call snow days in order to preserve learning


NT News Archive

Many students and staff found it hard to get to school last month after heavy snowfall

With last month’s snowfalls making it harder for students to get to school, some have wondered if New Trier should have called snow days.

In his time as Superintendent, since the 2017-18 school year, Paul Sally has called three snow days and two cold days. This year, there have been two days where students had a difficult time getting to school– Jan. 28 and Feb. 2.

Sally says that he makes the decision after discussing with the superintendents of the sender schools the night before and again early in the morning. Sometimes, he will drive around himself to gauge the road conditions and judge if travel is safe.

“We’ll get up at four in the morning and make a decision because we commit to calling by five o’clock in order to have anybody who gets up early– some of our staff leave as early as five o’clock– so everybody knows to wait until 5:01 to move on with their day to here.”

If I can ensure that kids can get into school safely, even with being patient and slow travel, I lean on the side of making sure we have school”

— Paul Sally

Sally said that there are three main factors that go into his decision.

“We ensure that our buildings are safe, that our buses can run, and that the roads are reasonably safe so that careful driving-people can get to school and get back home.”

According to Sally, calling cold days is slightly different.

“When it’s a cold day, the buses and the buildings being safe are particularly an issue because we want to make sure there’s heat and we want to make sure the buses won’t get stuck.”

Sally says that he is hesitant to call e-learning days but would if he had to. Currently, the grading day at the end of the semester is allocated for one snow day. If there were more, those days would have to be remote.

“I would prefer to call a snow day than an e-learning day because if we’re calling a snow day, let’s have the joy of a snow day. But certainly e-learning days are possibilities, and we’ll continue to revisit that approach.”

In order to use the grading day, second semester exams would get pushed back and the snow day would be added onto what used to be the first day of exams. If emergency days were extended into the next week, it wouldn’t give students who are planning to take summer school a sufficient break between semesters.

Sally said that he prefers not to call snow days.

“If I can ensure that kids can get into school safely, even with being patient and slow travel, I lean on the side of making sure we have school.”

The school understands that on particularly snowy days, many students will arrive at school late, and encourages advisers to be lenient with marking students tardy.

“Number one is drive safely. Drive slow. Get plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. We will not penalize any student for driving safe and slow on their way to school.”

Some students think that the two days in question should have been snow days, such as junior Ari Winer. 

Winer lives in west Wilmette and drives to the Northfield campus every day to take the shuttle to Winnetka. On Jan. 28, he was half an hour late to school and missed all of advisery.

“The shuttle left at 7:45 and arrived at 8:50. Everyone was slow and it was terrible. On the way to school that day I saw a school bus fishtail. It was really scary.”

Winer says that the snow would have slowed him down even if he hadn’t taken the shuttle.

“If I actually drove to school from my house, it would’ve taken at least an hour and a half.”

Junior Ruby Barnett says the snow makes it hard for her to get to school because her mom drives her and her siblings.

“I have three younger siblings, and we go to three different schools. With the snow, three of the four of us are always late.” 

Senior Claire Downey lives across the street from the Winnetka campus and walks to school. She understands that other people have a much harder time and thinks that the school should have called at least one snow day. 

“Not for my sake, but for other people’s sake– that first day where we got snow, people were arriving so late and it obviously wasn’t their fault. Traffic was horrible, the snow was so bad, it was dangerous. My adviser said she drove by a car accident”.

Downey likes the idea of sacrificing a day of summer for a snow day in the winter.

“I know they don’t want to add that extra day at the end of the year, but I honestly think that students would rather have a day off in the wintertime and lose a day in the summer than vice versa. I think it’s important for mental health, and losing one day of summer is really not as bad in my opinion.”

Sally believes that even though students may get to school later, having the rest of the day learning outweighs it.

“I know it’s difficult, I know that that’s frustrating for many people because you’re spending a significant amount of time traveling, which you don’t usually have to spend. I do think the day in school is worth it.”