As of this writing Monday afternoon, forecasters were predicting Sampson could get up to 4 inches of snow, possibly more, before the winter blast of frozen precipitation ends midday Wednesday.
The snow is expected to begin falling late morning to early afternoon, with the bulk coming down later in the evening and into Wednesday.
And that puts many folks in a quandary, particularly educators who must do their best to look through a crystal weather ball and determine the best course of action for students and staff. Those decisions are never made lightly and usually have to be determined long before the first flake falls, allowing for as much preparation time as possible.
Educational leaders often get unfair criticism about the calls they make with regards to weather — they are made the brunt of jokes when they delay or call off school based on weather predictions that don’t come to fruition and they are castigated nearly mercilessly when, based again on the best predictions, they keep students in school and weather becomes perilous.
The truth is, the task they have with regard to making weather-related decisions is an impossible one. No matter the call they make, the margin for error is great and the possibility of leaving upset parents likely.
It’s a no-win call, but it’s one of the most important educators make when bad weather could be on the horizon.
Thankfully, we have leaders who always err on the side of caution even if, to some, it seems as if they are throwing caution to the wind by delaying or cancelling school when, perhaps, to the average person there seems to be no real need.
But when it comes to the lives of those educators are charged with keeping safe, school leaders are always ready and willing to accept the criticism, knowing they are following their best instincts, with safety as their guide.
Much has to be considered as those decisions are made. Obviously safety is key, but it isn’t the only factor. There’s also the attempt to avoid makeup days that always cause problems for parents and educators, alike. Then there’s the sports schedules that often have to be altered to accommodate closings or delays. And, of course, there’s the timing — great attempts are made to give parents as much notice as possible to make other arrangements for youngsters when delays or closings occur.
And that’s just the first layer. Department of Transportation officials are usually consulted to determine road conditions and, more often than not, at least one administration official does their own ride-the-road assessment before the call is made.
If, like today, winter weather alerts have been issued but temperatures are in the 60s with few clouds in the sky, the already difficult task becomes next to impossible.
While we may want an instantaneous decision, it’s not fair to ask school officials to make off-the-cuff judgement calls that, in the end, will be the egg they must wear on their faces if the predicted snow never makes it to the ground here in Sampson.
We believe it will; forecasters think it’s highly probable, but no one is certain, at least not yet.
And that’s what makes the school closing/delaying decisions so difficult to make, no matter how easy they are for arm-chair leaders to ascertain.
We hope parents and community members will be a little slower to criticize school officials over weather decisions, realizing that in their shoes, with their great responsibilities, we would likely make the very same calls.