, Salem, MA

Local News

February 14, 2014

A tough call

Fickle weather made superintendents' decisions difficult

At noontime, you couldn’t blame Salem Superintendent Stephen Russell for feeling like he’d made a good decision to hold school yesterday.

It was 36 degrees and raining when Russell walked into City Hall for a meeting, circumstances that appeared to foreshadow an easy trip home for students.

An hour and a half later, he walked out of the meeting and into a raging snowstorm.

“It’s crazy,” Russell said. “We make the best judgment given the circumstances and the forecast, then we try to ensure the kids’ safety the best we can.”

On a day when the vaunted snow/rain line took more twists and turns than a Sochi downhill skier, school superintendents faced a tougher-than-usual decision yesterday about whether to cancel school.

As in Salem, superintendents in Beverly, Marblehead and Swampscott all decided to hold school. Peabody, Danvers, Hamilton-Wenham, Ipswich and Masconomet did not.

“It’s not an easy decision,” said Al Argenziano, Beverly’s interim superintendent. “I don’t know if you’re ever right in some people’s minds. You can’t win.”

Argenziano said many of the communities that held school yesterday are located along the water, where the forecast called for less snow.

But as the snow picked up throughout the afternoon, it made a field day for second-guessers. Argenziano decided to send Briscoe Middle School students home at 1 p.m., two hours early, in an attempt to beat the mounting storm.

But the snow was coming down steadily by then, and even more so when the high school and elementary schools got out at 2 and 2:30 p.m.

The situation left some parents upset over having to pick up their children during the height of the storm.

Carrie Stanley said it took her more than an hour to pick up her children, one at St. John’s the Evangelist and the other at Beverly High School. Stanley said cars were stuck in snow banks and spinning out in the high school parking lot.

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