The rising number of school closings is making gamblers out of families who scheduled summer vacations in early June.
Many school districts will use their third makeup day - at least - after bitter cold weather closed schools across York County Tuesday, with the thermometer reading minus 3 degrees overnight and not expected to climb past 6 degrees once the sun came up.
York County superintendents say closing schools for snow or bitter cold is often their least-favorite task, but one that has to be done for student safety.
"It's a kid-first mindset," said Emilie Lonardi, superintendent of the West York Area School District.
Lonardi said many factors go into the decision for closing schools, including safety for children who walk to school, student drivers and those waiting at bus stops.
It's also more than a split-second decision, said Northern York County Superintendent Eric Eshbach.
Test drive: Eshbach said on many snow days, the process starts around 4:30 a.m., when he gets in his car to test the more "hairy" of routes students and buses have to take in the district. He is also in contact with Rob Taylor, the director of buildings and grounds for the district.
Between the two of them, they drive routes in four of the five townships in the district and are in contact with all of the local road crews to get an idea of how safe the roads are. On days like Tuesday, which Eshbach called "bizarre" circumstances, he said the conversation started with other superintendents between 10 and 11 a.m. Monday morning.
When it comes to snowfall, Eshbach said, districts might vary according to location. But Eshbach said many school districts will work together in the case of other circumstances such as bitter cold.
When it comes to those sorts of decisions, Eshbach and other school leaders won't receive many accolades: Many people on The York Dispatch's Facebook page commented about the "wussification" that happens when kids stay home because of the temperature.
"It's going to be one of those decisions that isn't going to be popular," Eshbach said.
But even if kids were bundled with mounds of cold weather gear, Eshbach said he wouldn't want children at bus stops in the bitterness he experienced for just a few minutes Tuesday morning. He added the diesel buses could have had difficulty starting in the subzero temperatures, thus increasing the length of time students would stand outside at their bus stops.
Testing window: For the most part, school officials said they don't have any curriculum-related concerns with missing the school days. Rona Kaufmann, superintendent for South Eastern schools, said the testing windows for the Keystones and PSSAs are large enough that the district will be able to prepare the students in time.
Kaufmann also added on cold-weather days, like today, some of her students have bus stops a mile from their homes, too far away for those students to be walking in frigid temperatures.
Julie Romig, spokeswoman for the Central York School District, said there are no big concerns related to the cancellations. But as with any disruption, the missed days mean fewer hours for preparation and remediation leading up to the testing periods.
Romig said the larger concern for most families begins when the makeup days start to creep into June, as the one from Tuesday will.
"That's when everyone starts to get nervous," Romig said, mentioning many families plan for vacations, summer camps and jobs to start in the early weeks of June.
Central York students won't be the only ones still studying in the summer: Dallastown has makeup days until June 9, and the Northeastern district will go until June 12, unless additional closings continue to prolong the schedule.
But Lonardi at West York said all the things in the back of their minds -- testing, schedules, school in June -- can't be a priority in the face of keeping students safe.
"The truth is, we'll figure that out," Lonardi said.
What readers said: Before many York County schools closed on Tuesday because of the frigid temperatures, The York Dispatch asked readers the following question: "Do you think schools should close for extremely cold weather, like the close-to-zero temperatures expected here tomorrow morning?"
The responses were divided. Here are some responses to the question:
Kappy Nichols: "Yes. Not all children have the luxury of a ride to school, and these temperatures are dangerous. The safety of ALL children matters!"
Nathan Snyder: "No way. They can bundle up and be warm if dressed properly. Other states deal (with) this all winter long. We are babying our kids."
Gabe Furst: "Yes. As a First Responder Frostbite is likely (Tuesday)"
A.C. Rimmer: "If a large amount of the children walk to school, then yes. It seems as though a contingency plan should be put in effect for these days though."
Julie Aiken: "Yes. When I was a kid I walked to school in the cold and snow uphill both ways (really, I did). But why is that a virtue? And the other states that deal with it all winter long are prepared to do so. This is unusual for us and caution is not weakness."
Susan Stoner: "Am sure Buffalo (New York) doesn't close their schools every time the temp. plummets below 15 degrees. Enough said."
-- Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.