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Will school be cancelled tomorrow?

ESM Superintendent Donna DeSiato weighs in on that all-important decision making process

— Nearly every January and February, there comes a time when students all across Central New York wear their pajamas inside out and backwards, hoping that they’ll hear those three precious words: no school today. While it’s easy to get hopes up for a day off, East Syracuse-Minoa Superintendent Donna DeSiato says the actual decision making process isn’t quite so simple.

“It’s much more complicated than people would think. There aren’t a set of rules. We make the decision on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it has to do with inclement weather, sometimes it’s because of road conditions, and sometimes it’s because of the temperature,” she said.

DeSiato says that the bottom line is whether or not students can get to school safely. In order to determine that, she wakes up at 4 a.m. on bad weather days to review what’s going on with the weather systems. She says she uses the internet and television to figure out what will happen by the time buses are rolling out.

At 5 a.m., DeSiato has her first conference call with the district’s transportation supervisor to find out what the road conditions are like. After another conference call at 5:30 a.m., she’s ready to make a decision by 5:45, and that decision is passed onto the media by 6:15.

“One of the biggest factors [in closing school] is a rapidly moving storm. You really have to watch those because everything can look perfect at 5 a.m. and then move in quickly. It’s hard to predict because of the many directions it may go,” she said.

On bone-chilling days with dangerously low wind chill, DeSiato said she uses a chart to determine whether it’s simply too cold for students to be outside. She said the chart is based on temperature and wind speed.

“We look at those factors and calculate the amount of time a student would have to be outdoors. Then we take into consideration whether that temperature will be under the same wind chill conditions when school opens.”

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