Superintendent Dr. Clouet explains plan for winter delays, cancellations

Following some criticism for not canceling school in Shelton Friday, Feb. 10, the day after a severs snowstorm hit the state, Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet explained the procedure he follows when deciding to either cancel or delay a school day.

Connecticut laws have changed over the past several years, according to Clouet, and now require a minimum of 900 instructional hours per school year. The 900 hours translates into 180 school days, said Clouet.

When asked  how delays and half days impact that total number of instructional hours, the Superintendent clarified that as long as the school system has 900 hours of instructional hours it’s acceptable by law.

Shelton has a total of 183 days in a school year, which permits three cancellations before having to tack on additional days to the end of the year.

To cancel, or not to cancel?

Clouet said the process of deciding to either cancel or delay school begins calls at 4:30 a.m. the night before a storm is projected to hit.

The Superintendent explained that he begins calling a list of people and departments to discuss their various perspectives.

“At about 4:30 a.m. I call the police dispatcher to hear how things are out on the road from the perspective of officers that are out and about all over town,” said Clouet. “They radio out to their guys and we talk about the road conditions. I also call the highway department and talk about what their status is in terms of their ability to get parking lots and the streets cleared. Then I talk with area superintendents. Typically, Ansonia, Trumbull and others. We talk about what the situation looks like in their respective towns.”

Clouet said once the decision is made the relaying of the message commences and he reaches out to the city’s transportation director, who then contacts the bus company.

Before sharing his decision via Twitter, Clouet sends a message to all local school administrators as well as to the members of the Board of Ed.

What happened on Friday, Feb. 10?

Clouet said last week’s decision to not cancel school came as a result of speaking with his normal list of contacts and receiving information that led him to believe that transportation to and from school wouldn’t be an issue.

“Normally I like to wait until early in the morning so that we can have the best and most up to date information, but on rare occasions we call it in advance like how we did last thursday night,” said Clouet.

The Superintendent continued to explain how the process ensued last Thursday evening into Friday morning.

“That Thursday morning when I spoke with the police department as I always do, they indicated that there had been no accidents on the road and that the roads were not perfect but passable so we decided to stick with the delay,” said Clouet. “Other districts began to change their mind on the decision to delay v.s. cancel. In fact, Trumbull changed at 8:15 a.m. These are tough calls and I am very thankful that, although they were late, all of the busses made it to and from school safely.”

Clouet said despite his decision that was debated by community on both Twitter and Facebook, he doesn’t plan to change the process to which he decides whether to cancel or delay school given inclement weather.

“I think we have a good process in place,” said Clouet. “I think part of the problem that people need to understand is that one person’s sheet of ice or perspective that the street is a “sheet of ice” is another person’s mildly challenging or in other words, people have different perspectives on what is dangerous or not. Based on the tricky situation last week, I will be more likely to want to double and triple check regarding road conditions.”

In a statement released by Clouet following a rash of social media comments in regards to his decision last week, he said any student that didn’t attend school on Friday, Feb. 10 was marked “excused”. The absence will not count against eligibility for perfect attendance.