Superintendent Lacey to head snow day task force

As a result of the death of  senior Samantha Sipes there has been a lot of criticism about the public school’s snow day policy.

In order to resolve this, Superintendent Tammy Lacey has decided to assemble a task force with the objective of reviewing the policy.

Great Falls Public Schools has not had a snow day since 1989, when Lacey was teaching an elementary class at Valley View Elementary School.

“The wind was blowing and the temperature dropped 50 degrees in two hours. Meanwhile all of Great Falls lost power,” Lacey said. “The second half of that day everyone was sent home as well as the entire following day.”

According to Lacey, there are many factors that go into a snow day.

If school buildings are uninhabitable, the schools will not be open. If Great Falls businesses are closed the likelihood of schools closing increases; parents wouldn’t be able to supervise their children if the schools closed and businesses didn’t.

Also, staff must be able to be present in order to have school, she said.

According to Lacey, only 36 percent of students are eligible to ride the buses; the number of students who actually ride the buses is unknown.

“Not every kid who is eligible rides the bus. If we assume that all 36 percent of kids eligible actually ride the bus there are still another 7,000 who don’t that we must consider; I have to take into account all students,” Lacey said.

The weather is another big factor.

“We’re always keeping track of the weather,” she said.

A group of people, including the assistant superintendents and the school principals, often collaborate on making the decision to shut down the schools.

In the end, the final decision is the superintendent’s. Lacey not only collaborates with the assistant superintendents, but also with the director of transportation.

“There was a lot of community fallout around that,” Lacey said of Sipes’ death. “Various camps quickly came about. Every person looks at it from their own perspective.”

Lacey is going to head a task force with the goal of reviewing the snow day policy.

The task force will include 26 people: assistant superintendents, Director of Business Operations, principals, community representatives, parents, and CMR’s student representative, Katie Williams.

The first meeting will be held April 22; it will be one of two or more possible meetings.

“I’m hoping we can get it done in two meetings. We have to make sure we study the big picture of the situation; I believe we can always get better as a school district. I’m going into it with an open mind,” Lacey said. “I think it’s going to be a good process.”