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With snow storms approaching, Landon considers factors in school district cancellation decisions

Farmer’s Almanac warns that the weather this winter is supposed to be just as bad, if not worse, than last winter’s storms. Many students, teachers and parents are concerned about the precautions being taken to prepare for potentially ugly conditions.

In years past, many Staples students have had unsafe experiences in the snow and ice when cancellations were held off.

Gigi Vallone ’16 recalls a snowy day last year when no early dismissal was called.

After school that day, when her brother was driving her home, they slid on black ice and lost traction. To avoid hitting other cars, he made a sharp right turn, driving over a rock and damaging the car.

“No one was hurt,” Vallone said. However, she added, “We shouldn’t have been out on the roads to begin with. In my opinion, I think the roads were unsafe to drive on.”

Many Staples students can understand Vallone’s discontent, and others have criticized Superintendent Elliott Landon for keeping schools open despite snowy conditions.

Lexi Wetmore ’17 remembers a snowy day two years ago when “there was already a coating of snow on the ground when the buses were coming.” Despite Landon’s decision to keep the schools open,  “My mom thought it was really unsafe so [she] just had me stay home,” Wetmore said.

However, Landon says dealing with backlash from parents, students and faculty is part of being superintendent.  “I just roll with the punches,” Landon said when asked how he deals with such criticisms.

Although some students and parents have found his decisions unreasonable, the process in calling a snow day is more complex than one may imagine.

“Superintendents have a really hard job,” said Cliff Gibson, Chief Operating Officer of Dattco, Westport’s bus company.

Superintendents must weigh many different factors in calling a snow day. Sometimes the weather reports are off, which may lead to an inaccurate decision. Also, the disadvantage of an early dismissal is that some parents aren’t home to meet returning children. All of these issues must be contemplated before any decision.

When making the call, Landon said that he often uses Accuweather, along with advice from other superintendents. However, when asked if Dattco ever influences his decision, he said, “Not at all.”

Gibson explained that other school districts will use the bus company in an “advisory capacity,” but the Westport school district never consults with Dattco about snow days.

“It’s a bad call if you end up with a situation that isn’t as safe as you would like it to be,” Gibson said.

Gibson and Landon agreed that safety is the primary factor in a cancellation decision.

“The motivating factor in all of my decisions is: ‘What is best for the students of Westport?’”

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About the Contributor
Jen Gouchoe, Web Features Editor
Jen Gouchoe ’16 is no stranger to the arts. In her Sophomore year she joined Inklings as a staff writer, and has been an active participant since; while this year, she is web Features editor. But journalism is not her only talent. Outside of school, Gouchoe has pursued piano for the last 11 years. And she wants to continue her studying music in college, where she plans to minor in it. This summer, she spent five days playing piano at an intensive music camp. Although she wasn't expecting to enjoy herself, the camp managed to surprise her. "It was really stressful and crazy and chaotic, but I met really cool people and really cool teachers,” Gouchoe said. “It ended up being like the best experience of my life. It was just really inspired me to work really hard on my piano stuff this year."  

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