TOWNSEND — With winter upon us, school cancellations can become an issue for the administration, but Superintendent of Schools James McCormick has been handling that responsibility for years, and he feels he has the process down to a science.
“On a snowy day, I’m up by 4:15 a.m. I go outside in my driveway, and I personally call a few of the other towns locally to see how the roads are,” he said. “If any say the roads are hazardous, there will be no school. I like the decision to be made and on television by 5 a.m. so parents have time to figure out their day.”
Nine other superintendents from surrounding towns call him to see what he’s doing about the situation, said McCormick.
After school is called off, he gets back on the phone to begin the hotline between schools, principals and the rest of the staff.
“I call four contacts, who in turn call their staff members. The phone chain begins, so everyone knows first-hand what is going on within the district,” he said.
The bus company in Townsend is not involved in the decision to call off school for the day.
“They have never been involved in making the decision here like they are in other towns and cities. I do call them myself to speak to the dispatcher to let them know they have the day off. It works well for everyone that way,” he said.
When the North Middlesex Regional School District (NMRSD) calls off school, it is on the local television news by just after 5 a.m.
“I know we are usually one of the first to get the word out there,” he said.
When the radio and television stations are called, there are passwords in place so the media knows the calls are official.
According to the Department of Education, all schools must be in session 185 days per year, with five built-in snow days in the calendar.
“We can keep going with calling off school, but it extends the school year to get those 185 days in. It has only happened a few times (where) we went over the five built-in days,” McCormick said. “I also make the decision if (whether) the office staff comes in or not if I call off school. There is another series of phone calls for the personnel in the office.”
It is better to be safe than sorry when making the no school call, McCormick said.
“If the roads are treacherous in any of our towns, I would rather be on the side of caution,” he said.