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Making the call: How do school districts decide on snow days?

Spoiler alert: The decision is never easy.

WATERBURY, Conn. — Lots of school districts across Connecticut made the decision to cancel class on Wednesday or have an early dismissal. But how do districts make that call? Turns out, it's almost always a difficult one. 

In Waterbury, the superintendent opted for an early dismissal.

"If there is anything that could potentially be dangerous on the road anywhere between two and five (p.m.), you want to take that into consideration because you don't want your students to be out, on the buses, in traffic jams and on all those hills that we have in Waterbury," said Dr. Verna Ruffin, Superintendent of Waterbury Public Schools.

Dr. Ruffin has been the superintendent of Waterbury for five years. She said making the call on snow days is one of her least favorite parts of the job.

"It's one of those decisions that regardless of your decision, somebody's going to think you're right and somebody's going to think that you're wrong. So you just do what's best for the safety of everybody," Dr. Ruffin said.

Luckily, Dr. Ruffin doesn't have to make that decision alone. It's a team effort, starting way before the students are awake around 3 or 4 a.m. Around that time, city leaders, members of the Department of Public Works, and the district are taking a look at their weather service and coming to a decision.

"We take into consideration the city, the public works, the condition of the roads, the possibility of any freezing or not freezing, whether it's snowfall, whether it's sleet, whether it's rain, you take all of that into consideration," Dr. Ruffin said. 

Perhaps the largest factor of all is timing.

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"These afternoon events are always tricky," said Mark Lombardo, Deputy Director of the Waterbury Public Works Department. 

Especially in Waterbury, Lombardo said, where the hills can catch people off guard.

"Waterbury is very unique with the many hills that we have throughout the city. so that gets challenging through the winter months," Lombardo said.

That's why with even minor weather events, they still go out in full force. More than 30 trucks took to the roads on Wednesday, to cover more than 300 miles of streets. However, the work never stops there. 

"We'll keep staff on for any icy conditions and make sure that tomorrow morning's commute to school and work is safe for everybody," Lombardo said. 

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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