How the Public Schools Branch decides when to call a storm day

As storm days continue to add up this winter, Islanders may be wondering exactly how the decision to cancel or delay classes is made. 

A team of four people wake up at about 5 a.m. to make the decision, said Dave Gillis of the Public Schools Branch. 

"First of all, the Public Schools Branch is in the business of educating kids and we believe strongly that the best way to do that is to have them present in our facilities," Gillis said. 

"Any decision that we make to cancel or delay or dismiss early is one that we take very seriously." 

We are basically projecting what the future will look like during the school day. — Dave Gillis, Public Schools Branch

P.E.I.'s Public Schools Branch has cancelled classes eight times so far this school year due to inclement weather. 

There were 10 cancellations during the 2018-2019 school year.

'We take the best information that we have'

Gillis said there's a lot of pressure in making the call. He said evaluating the weather begins days in advance of reaching a decision. 

He said the team responsible relies on supervisors, plow operators and dispatchers with the Department of Transportation to make a choice. 

"We are basically projecting what the future will look like during the school day," he said. 

"We take the best information we have in the time frame that we have to make it and by about 6 a.m. we have to make that decision."

Gillis said it's not uncommon to get a calls later in the morning from people critical of the decision to cancel. 

"The part that most people don't thoroughly understand is the fact that we had to make the decision hours and hours prior to that based on what we expected things to be like," Gillis said. 

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He said another common misconception is that employees with the department get the day off.

While teachers can work from home on storm days, Gillis said they use that time to work on lesson plans and mark student work. 

He also noted that administrative and maintenance staff come in to work on storm days just as they would any other day.

Gillis said the department also consults with other jurisdictions across the region on their storm day policies. 

"We are pretty much on par with the way that decisions are made in the jurisdictions that are akin to us." 

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