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.
“Beverly definitely should have had a half day,” she said in an email.
Argenziano said he was up at 3 in the morning to look out the window, check the forecasts and consult with the city’s public services director to see if the roads would be OK.
Argenziano said he wanted to avoid another cancellation if he could. Beverly students have already missed four days due to snow. He was also worried about the possibility of more snow today. And next week is school vacation.
“That’s potentially nine days off in a row,” he said. “I was trying to get at least one day in.”
Like the baseball manager who pulls his starting pitcher at the right time, superintendents who did call off school were praised for their foresight.
Higgins Middle School of Peabody Twitter account tweeted, “This would have been one tough dismissal. #goodcallsupt.”
In his defense, Russell said he made the best decision he could with the information he had at the time.
“We do put a lot of time and energy into making sure we’re making the best judgment possible,” he said. “Some of this can’t be predicted, and some of it is luck.”
As he looked out his window at the falling afternoon snow, Russell added, “I don’t think I’m going to buy a Powerball ticket today.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.
School cancellations Open yesterday Salem, Beverly, Marblehead, Swampscott Closed yesterday Peabody, Danvers, Hamilton-Wenham, Masconomet, Ipswich Early release yesterday Essex Agricultural Technical (11:10 a.m.); Briscoe Middle School, Beverly (1 p.m.)