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How to Call a Snow Day

January 17, 2020
By Dr. John Moran
"Good Morning, this is a recorded message from Dr. Moran at Cheverus High School. Due to today's inclement weather, classes have been canceled. Students are asked to check their school email accounts and Google Classrooms for messages from teachers, and if necessary any further information regarding today's schedule will be posted on our website. Again, due to today's inclement weather, classes have been canceled. Enjoy a safe snow holiday!"

If you actually listen to those messages, you hear that little speech or some version of it 5 to 10 times a year. As I record them in my living room on those cold winter mornings, sometimes I like to imagine what’s happening on the other end of the line. 

  • Did you listen to the whole thing, or as soon as I said “classes have been canceled” did you hang up? 
  • Did you even get out of bed, or was the phone handy at your bedside so you could roll over and go back to sleep as quickly as possible? 
  • Did you thrust your arms in the air? 
  • Scream out to your parents and siblings? 
  • Did the dog start barking because it didn’t understand your reaction? 

Perhaps because it is one of the more public things I do in my role as principal, I get asked fairly often, “how do you call a snow day?” It just so happens that I’m writing this blog post on a snow day, so the procedure is fresh on my mind. 

The process almost always begins the night before a potential snowstorm. Mr. Costigan and I watch the evening news and exchange texts about what we think might happen. Sometimes others chime in with their opinions as well (thanks Mr. Ashley!). On occasion, if the storm looks serious and definite, we’ll cancel school the night before. We understand everybody likes when we do this, but honestly, the weather in Maine can be so unpredictable - especially along the coast - that such “definites” are rare. 

This morning I got up at 4:30 a.m., let the dog out, stirred the embers on the wood stove and threw a few fresh logs on, and started the coffee maker (set up the night before). Only then do I turn on the TV and see what channels 6, 8 and 13 are saying about the weather. If all three channels are giving weather-related updates between 4:40 a.m. and 4:50 a.m., that’s a good sign (if you’re rooting for a snow day). If they’re discussing politics or local events, chances are we’ll be in school.

Mr. Costigan and I are the primary decision-makers, though we listen to a lot of input along the way. We send and receive texts from Ms. Po, Mr. Lemay and Mr. Burke at St. Brigid’s. I have a “storm central” setup in my living room on such mornings. I follow the National Weather Service updates on my computer while watching the local weather forecasts on TV. 

By 4:45 a.m. I call Mr. Costigan. Mr. Costigan is up early every day of the year, and by 4:45 he’s already on the road and can give me an update about road conditions in South Portland and Portland. Though we’re mindful that our decision needs to be what’s best for Cheverus and our families, we certainly pay attention to what other schools are doing. If all Portland schools close (and they usually make their decision quite early), then we almost certainly will too. Even if they don’t close, we are aware that our families and our student drivers are coming from 10-20 miles in all directions, so we’re paying attention to what’s happening south, west and north of Portland as well.  

We aim to have a decision made by 5:15 a.m. because Mrs. Dumond in the cafeteria needs to know if deliveries need to be cancelled, and Mr. Lemay needs time to clear parking lots and walkways if teachers and students will be arriving between 7:00 a.m. and 9:50 a.m. Once the decision has been made Mr. Costigan contacts the TV stations while I send out texts and emails. Then I record the speech. "Good Morning, this is a recorded message…"