Snow-covered roads may be suitable for one-horse open sleighs, but school buses are another matter.
Delaware City School District leaders assess the roads during inclement weather to judge driving and walking conditions and determine if a two-hour delay or cancellation is appropriate.
"Having the two-hour delay can be really helpful to us if we're waiting for, say, the fog to clear up in the morning, or allow for more sunlight for students who walk," Superintendent Paul Craft said.
Currently, school districts in Ohio are allowed five calamity days that do not need to be made up. Additional calamity days must be made up on weekends or added to the end of the school year.
Craft said, however, that state law soon will require a specific number of hours in the classroom, rather than days.
"This gives us more flexibility to add time, as opposed to adding days, if necessary," Craft said. "For example, we could add 15 minutes to each day for a number of days to make up for some of those hours we may have missed during a snow day."
The district has not used more than its allotted calamity days in at least 15 years, Craft said.
School district employees start assessing the roads at 4 a.m. on snowy or icy days. After evaluating the roads and following up on reports from law enforcement officials and other area schools, Craft will make the decision to close or delay school by 5:45 a.m.
Workers were out on the roads in different parts of the district at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, after snow fell overnight.
Craft said he wants to make the call early enough for parents who use the school's morning child-care program.
"We try to make the best call we can, but it's not an easy call," he said.
Craft said the decision isn't based on the theory that "no one will get hurt or injured."
"If our standard was zero chance anyone would get injured, we could close school every day," he said.
Craft said he is reluctant to call a snow day because it can be disruptive to the schedules of teachers and students.
"Our staff are great at making adjustments to their days, but if we have a lot of moving parts scheduled, like a field trip or speaker, it can throw things off," he said.
Craft said the district's goal is to have zero snow days.
"We want our kids in school," he said. "However, I'm not a Grinch. I understand the joy of a snow day to students and families, but I am happiest when kids are in the classroom learning. That's where they're supposed to be."
The district uses an auto-call system, Facebook and its website to notify students and families if there is a snow day.
Craft said the word gets out quickly, as he has learned from personal experience. When he instituted the auto-call system, he let his son know beforehand.
His son texted a few friends about the snow day, and before Craft had a chance to use the auto-call system, news of the snow day had passed through students and had been posted online.
"It's amazing how quickly they get the word out about a snow day," he said.