Whenever local weather professionals predict a snowstorm, Kelli Cook’s son puts a pencil in the freezer in what the Cicero mom said is a foolproof way to bring on a school cancellation.
“It usually works,” Cook said. “He did it Thursday night [Dec. 18 before Christmas vacation] and we didn’t even have a shortened day on Friday — we got the whole day off.”
And that’s not the only method kids use. Maureen Wood of Liverpool said her kids use a more tried-and-true technique.
“They wear their pajamas inside out and backwards,” Wood said. “I’ve found cotton balls under their pillows.”
Other tricks include putting a snowball or ice cube in the toilet, hiding a white crayon in the freezer, sleeping with a wooden spoon under your pillow, throwing ice cubes at a tree, putting something silver under your pillow and singing “Frosty the Snowman” while standing on your head.
So do these methods really work? Some kids swear by them. Indeed, Cook has been impressed more than once by her son’s trick.
“It’s funny,” she said. “It almost always works.”
What really happens
But how do kids really get a snow day? It’s up to their superintendent.
There are two cases in which school superintendents make the decision to shut down for the day: in cases of extreme wind chill when the temperatures are dangerously low for kids standing at the bus stop and in extreme weather where buses cannot safely navigate the roads.
In both cases, Liverpool Superintendent Jan Matousek said area superintendents consult with each other as well as local weather experts.
“We’ll usually start talking to each other around 5:15 a.m.,” Matousek said. “I talk to all of the superintendents in the area — Baldwinsville, West Genny, North Syracuse. I’ll also talk to my transportation director to find out how the roads are.”
In the case of wind chill emergencies, Matousek said schools are largely dependent on the forecast.
“If it’s minus 20 at 5 a.m. but they’re saying it’s going to be up to minus 5 by 7 a.m., we rely on that,” she said. “That’s why we have delays a lot of the time — maybe it’s too cold to have the kids at the bus stop at the regular time, but two hours later, it’s okay.”
Matousek said the case is similar in terms of inclement weather.
“If the plows can get out ahead of it and clear the major roads and the bus routes, we’ll still have school,” she said. “But if it’s coming too fast for the plows to keep up or if it hits right around the time we’re trying to get the kids off to school, we’ll call a delay. If it keeps up or if there’s no way the buses can safely get the kids to school even with a delay, we’ll cancel.”
Again, the decision is made quickly — usually by 6 a.m.
Matousek said she’s heard of students using several tricks to try to bring on a snow day.
“They tell me they wore their pajamas inside out and backwards or put cotton balls under their pillows,” she said. “If they see me out and about and they’re predicting snow, they come over and beg me to cancel school.”
But kids should be careful what they wish for, Matousek said.
“I always tell them, if we use up our allotment of snow days early and then we have more bad weather, they’ll end up at school over their April break,” she said. “Nobody wants that.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.