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Snowdays? Snow problems!

Anjali Subramanian ’22 Assistant Features Editor
When the latest weather forecast calls for an imminent storm, students’ first reaction may be to use the Snow Day Calculator.
But the same cannot be said for John Roberts, Assistant Head of School, David Baxter, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, and Kai Bynum, Head of School. They have to research the storm, talk to a variety of sources, come up with a decision, and inform the public.

The process begins days before a storm, when Roberts and Baxter familiarize themselves with the possible weather conditions and impact. Roberts says, “We decide after watching a bunch of weather reports (to try and be able to tell a likely weather scenario for the day).” Similar to Roberts, Baxter tracks forecasts to “get a sense of when snow is likely to start, how much accumulation is expected, when it is likely to stop and expected temperatures.” He believes that “timing is critical as heavy snow right before, or during the peak travel times (for Hopkins that is from 6:30-8:00 am), can create unsafe conditions on the roads and on campus.”

According to Roberts, the next step is to “talk to the maintenance folks about how things are on campus and what they need before the hills and driveways and stairs are ready for us all.” One person Baxter and Roberts talk to is Liz Climie, the Director of Facilities. Her biggest concern for students and faculty is “getting around campus safely.” Her worries include “thawing and refreezing,” “ice falling off trees and buildings,” and “people not paying attention to where they are stepping because they are distracted by things like electronic devices.” Then, Roberts explains, they “talk to the bus companies about what they would suggest.” One bus company Hopkins uses, B&B Transportation Inc, “operates along I-95 and Merritt Parkway,” and can tell them “their view of travel conditions.”

Finally, a phone call at 5 a.m. takes place between Roberts, Baxter, and Bynum. Baxter says, “Mr. Roberts and I will give a recommendation to Dr. Bynum. He weighs all of this information and makes the decision.” He continues, “If Dr. Bynum decides to delay or close, then Mr. Roberts and I each play a role in getting the word out.” Roberts sends the Honeywell Alert to warn Hopkins families, while Baxter informs Climie and Andrew Burke, Head of Community Safety, as well as several television stations of their decision.

Hopkins students come from a large region of Connecticut, making it difficult to decide on delays and cancellations. Baxter says, “Students come from over 60 different towns stretching from the southeastern shoreline to deep Fairfield County and as north as Rocky Hill. So it is important that we take that into account as we need to consider the safety of everyone.” He does this by “watching to see what other school systems are deciding,” as that “can give us a good indication of conditions in those towns.” Roberts agrees with Baxter, saying “I’m always a little envious of the school administrators who only have one town to worry about! That must be so easy! We’ve got people from everywhere and each storm hits different parts of the state with various intensity so we try and be mindful of the whole state and all our people.”

Another difficulty is cleaning up the snow. Climie says, “This is a campus of steps, and each step has to be hand shoveled. How much snow falls, plays a big role in determining how long it takes to do a cleanup.” If there is a large accumulation of snow or if the snow is heavy, then “steps may have to be done more than once because it is almost impossible to shovel a foot of heavy wet snow off the steps.” The many parking lots of Hopkins also have to be cleaned. Climie says, “For long duration storms, parking lots have to be plowed multiple times because you can only push about six inches of snow at a time. If it is heavy wet snow, it may even be less.”

Regardless of the ultimate decision, Roberts says that the Snow Day Calculator; “is super fun and a kid’s best friend.” He warns, “Don’t rely on it too much! It’s way more fun than accurate!” But if the Snow Day Calculator turns out to be accurate, then Roberts can “go back to bed until it’s time for The Price is Right, and then make waffles for breakfast!”


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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
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