Public school students losing days, not focus

By Nicole Michaud
Windsor Locks - posted Thu., Feb. 3, 2011
Students take advantage of the extra days off. File photo. - Contributed Photo

With record snowfall making travel treacherous, the Windsor Locks Public Schools’ students and staff are getting an unexpected number of days off. The most recent storm brought, with its mounds of snow, the fifth snow day of the school year.
“The last time a full week has been in session was the week before Christmas,” said Superintendent Wayne Sweeney.  Additional interruptions to the calendar have included one early dismissal and one delayed start. His concerns are not yet heightened, as the school calendar can be extended by 14 additional days before April vacation gets cut short.  With nine calendar days remaining, he feels cautiously confident about the schedule. “We’re in pretty good shape,” he confirmed.  Shortening the upcoming February vacation is currently not in consideration.  
Sweeney’s decision to delay or cancel classes begins at approximately 4 a.m. with an observation of the roads and weather conditions. From there, he tracks weather reports from the National Weather Service and local news organizations. Within an hour, following discussions with colleagues and fellow superintendents, Sweeney’s decision is made, so as to ensure timely notification to parents, students, staff and bus drivers.
While the decision isn’t foolproof, Sweeney defends his tendency to err on the side of caution for everyone’s safety.  When approached with negative feedback regarding closures, he reminded the community that safety is the priority, regardless of any weather miscalculations. “If no one got hurt, then it was the right decision,” he stated.  
While the interruptions are challenging to the schools, the staff and students have been holding up well – although not as happy as expected with the idea of more cancellations. “Obviously it has an influence,” he added, when asked how the school community is responding to the weekly disruptions to the schedule. “Everyone’s getting tired of it – I think the kids are too.”
On the days that classes are in session, Sweeney said students have not lost their focus, as he witnessed great behavior during a recent assembly – held the day after a snow day, on a Friday, with early dismissal.  “The students and staff have been phenomenal,” he said.

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