Portsmouth superintendent: No 'crystal ball' on snow delay calls

Some parents say one-hour school delay Tuesday should have been longer

By Jim McGaw
Posted 12/3/19

PORTSMOUTH — When Superintendent Ana Riley talked to staff members, the Department of Public Works and other school districts around 4 a.m. Tuesday, she said it didn’t look like the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Portsmouth superintendent: No 'crystal ball' on snow delay calls

Some parents say one-hour school delay Tuesday should have been longer

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — When Superintendent Ana Riley talked to staff members, the Department of Public Works and other school districts around 4 a.m. Tuesday, she said it didn’t look like the local roads were going to get hit with much snow.

“When we were on the phone together at 4, the roads were fine,” she said. “We were still saying we could go on time, and then it really came down quick. This was a storm that was not supposed to be as much as it was.”

But by the time the call was made to delay school by just one hour and cancel morning kindergarten classes, however, the weather had soured quickly.

“The timing was as bad as it could be,” Ms. Riley said, adding her decision had already been made by the time snow started collecting. “The cat was out of the bag.” 

Angry parents

Many Portsmouth parents, meanwhile, took to social media and blasted the decision to keep schools open, with some saying a two-hour delay was more appropriate. Several vowed to keep their children home Tuesday due to safety concerns, and they complained their neighborhood streets were still slick, with buses soon to arrive.

“Even my work delays us by 2 hrs,” said one poster on the “All Things Portsmouth” Facebook page. “I wouldn’t put my kid on a bus with the side roads the way they are.”

Others offered their own two cents:

• “People are stuck trying to drive up Hedly Street.”

• “Roads are bad, snowing until noon. Good day to cancel school. 1 hr delay makes no sense.”

• “My husband just drove Sandy Point to Melville and said the roads are a mess. And my daughter (is scheduled) to get on the bus in five minutes.”

• “I am not sending my kids out in this. My husband plows and he said the roads are a mess.”

Some parents did indeed keep their kids home. “It’s definitely more than usual,” Ms. Riley said of the number of absentees recorded Tuesday.

Ms. Riley, who had been up since 3 a.m. Tuesday — “Right now I’m caffeinating the rest of the afternoon,” she quipped — said her office hadn’t received many direct complaints from parents as of late that morning.

“We got one phone call and one e-mail,” she said. “They’re taking it out on social media. But that happens with every single snowstorm; no matter what, somebody’s not happy.”

Ms. Riley acknowledged she would have liked to have this one back.

“I’ve been pretty lucky the last few years; I’ve guessed right. It’s been five years, and this is the one I think I would have done differently,” she said. “Of course, I’m Tuesday morning quarterbacking, but a two-hour delay probably would have been better.”

The superintendent said she tries to make the “best decision based on the information I have available at the time.”

Unfortunately, she said, when evaluating the weather and other factors, “you don’t have a crystal ball.”

Little Compton kids stay home

In Little Compton, which sends its high school students to Portsmouth, the roads were even worse. The district canceled classes altogether and the older students had no bus transportation to Portsmouth High School.

“Their roads were really bad and the bus company said there’s no way they’ll be able to make all their routes,” the superintendent said.

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.