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City Officials Explain School Opening Decisions

City officials say they took extra steps to make sure students made it to school safely.

Though some residents complained about the decision to re-open the Waltham Public Schools on Wednesday, Feb. 13, city officials say a “contingency plan” assured them having school was a safe decision.

The comments came in the wake of Waltham Patch users saying students fell at or near their ice-covered bus stops on Wednesday morning on their way to school. Overall, some parents felt the sidewalks were not yet safe for students to use, according to the comments.

Waltham Public Schools Superintendent Susan Nicholson, however, said she believes she made the right call in re-opening schools after three snow days. Nicholson said she and School Safety Officer Ann Frassica reviewed the city’s progress clearing sidewalks at around 4:30 a.m. and found “some progress” had been made. Some sidewalks, however, were still not clear, and Nicholson said she was concerned about several areas, including School Street.

At Nicholson’s request, the Waltham Police Department’s overnight shift was extended to assist students in getting to school. The overnight officers, as well as additional crossing guards, Nicholson said, were “strategically” placed at locations where snow and ice were still causing safety issues.

"Because of that plan, we felt we could open up school [on Wednesday]," Nicholson said.

As for delaying the decision on whether to re-open until around 5 a.m., McCarthy said, "Due to snow conditions, [plow crews] were not sure if they could finish [clearing schools/sidewalks] because it is taking them longer [than expected].”

City officials had said they would announce the decision to re-open by Tuesday at 6 p.m., but later in the day, McCarthy said the decision was pushed to Wednesday morning. Nicholson added she did not want to make the same “mistake” she said she made on Monday by first announcing schools would re-open on Tuesday, only to reverse the decision early Tuesday morning.

About the decision to close schools on Tuesday, Nicholson said there had been a plan to clear sidewalks by 4 a.m., but by that time, the walkways were still not clear.

"For the safety of our children, I could not open up the schools," Nicholson said.

Matt Carter February 14, 2013 at 04:02 PM
I also think they will be clearing Moody Street soon. Probably going to haul the snow away like they do after every big storm.
Matt Carter February 14, 2013 at 04:10 PM
That's fine Susan. I have friends at the DPW too. They tell me the same thing. Have you ever gone to the back of the city yard? Looks like a bone yard back there with broken sidewalk plows, trucks and plows. For a city with 115 Miles of streets we only have (6) 6-wheel dump trucks (1 down possibly permanently), and a fleet of pickup trucks. Also they have 6 Sidewalk plows but only 2 or 3 are actually working. That's not adequate to clear 115 Miles of road. The Water Dept had to rent a Budget Truck recently to carry equipment because there truck broke down and there is no money to fix it. She has made are DPW look like a Joke. Positions are unfilled, they are understaffed and definitely under equipped. The even bigger Joke is the Mayor has a plan to replace equipment but its not even funded which means Waltham won't see a new truck until 2018!
Peter Colao February 14, 2013 at 06:18 PM
I'm curious as to how many kids are hurt sledding on a day off compared to slipping at a bus stop.
Noto Traffic February 15, 2013 at 12:06 AM
I have done this before. I sent my son to the bus stop with 2 dixie cups full of ice melt to through down on his way so when he came home from school he may have a safe(er) walk home. My son's bus stop is way past Brandies almost in Weston and I call the Mayors office every storm (that amounts to something) and ask to please have the bus stop cleared.
NWBL February 15, 2013 at 04:02 AM
Touche, Peter!

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