Hearing the words snow day can still send a shiver of excitement through almost anyone.

Hearing the words snow day can still send a shiver of excitement through almost anyone.

No matter how old we get, we can remember the joy of seeing pure white snow outside the window and then hearing the voice on the television or radio confirm that school was, in fact, canceled for the day.

Now that we are adults, we realize snow days cause a lot of headaches, too. The last-minute changes in schedule mean parents must juggle childcare with work and other commitments.

Snow days also mean lost instructional time, which is something we educators take very seriously.

While we keep all of this in mind, when the weather is questionable, our one and only focus is student safety. To make the decision whether to delay or cancel school, several staff members hit the roads around 4 a.m. They drive through each part of the district, checking road conditions and visibility. When they have completed their assessments, we discuss their findings along with any reports from neighboring districts and local law enforcement. If we think conditions warrant a delay or closure, we make the call by 5:30 a.m.

We call a delay only when we feel there is a good chance for conditions to improve enough to have school. In those situations, our staff continues to monitor the roads during the delay to ensure our buses will be able to travel safely.

Please keep in mind that our school district is 95 square miles of diverse terrain. At times the weather conditions differ significantly from one part of the district to another, but still warrant calling a delay to ensure everyone's safety.

Immediately after making the decision to close or delay school, we begin notifying students and staff members. We use our automated calling system, update our website, send out email blasts and alert the media. We feel it's important to use all of the tools at our disposal because our families need to know as soon as possible, and no single system is infallible -- especially in the case of severe weather.

The state allows each school district to use as many as five calamity days each year. Once a district exceeds five days, it must add makeup days to the calendar. If you recall, last winter was so mild that Olentangy didn't use a single calamity day. But just a few years ago, districts all across the state were going to school during spring break, on Saturdays and well into June to make up for the days missed during a brutal winter.

Olentangy is using a new law to avoid the scheduling conflicts that come along with makeup days. Our teachers prepare and regularly update three days' worth of online assignments. If we would find ourselves in the position of needing a sixth calamity day, the first day of online assignments would be released. The same would happen on the seventh and eighth days. The online lessons would count as instructional days, and Olentangy would not be required to make them up. Not many school districts are taking advantage of this program yet, but we feel it's an important step to avoid headaches for families and to keep students engaged in learning.

If you have any questions regarding our calamity-day procedures, please let us know. You can call 740-657-4050 or send me an email at superintendent_ blog@olentangy.k12.oh.us. You also can submit a question to our Get the Facts blog at facts@olentangy.k12.oh.us.

Thanks for taking the time to read this update. The Olentangy staff wishes the entire community happy holidays and a safe winter season.

Wade Lucas is the superintendent of the Olentangy Local School District.