Administration Cancels Classes

Cheering and group hugs broke out across campus midday Tuesday when students received an email from Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, announcing Wednesday’s classes were cancelled for the next day due to a snowstorm. “The snow day was basically the greatest thing of all-time,” said Drew D’Alelio ’12. Uday Singh ’12 said “It was awesome. I spent most of my time sledding and just hanging out with friends—a great break in the middle of winter term.” The snow day occurred when more than 20 inches of snow accumulated over campus on Wednesday, February 2. The fourth snow day in 30 years on Wednesday marked the first class cancellation due to inclement weather conditions at Phillips Academy since February 18, 2003. Wednesday’s schedule moved to Friday with periods 1, 2 and 7 meeting, while Thursday classes remained as scheduled. Before issuing the snow day, Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, and Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, selected faculty and administrators to collaborate in order to create a plan of action. In these meetings and conference calls, they considered the likelihood of snowfall and the conditions to which Andover staff will have to respond. They also decided how to alert student and faculty and, if needed, what changes must be made to the class schedule. Participants on this decision board included Sykes, Murphy, John Rogers, Dean of Studies, Temba Maqubela, Dean of Faculty and Assistant Head for Academics, Steve Carter, Chief Financial Officer, and Maureen Nunez, Director of Risk Management and Administrative Service. The administrators also received input from Larry Muench, Director of Facilities, Ronald Johnson, Manger of Grounds, and Thomas Conlon, Director of Public Safety. Sykes said, “As [conditions] change, we need to get the word out sooner; [the administration] decides how we are going to communicate and by when.” The next morning, they all watch several different weather channels for the storm forecast and met again before classes. At this point, the final decision is made to either continue on a regular schedule, issue a delay or cancel classes. The administration usually finds the cancellation of classes as ineffective. In most cases, classes starting at 8 a.m. give the Office of the Physical Plant ample time to prepare campus for the upcoming day. “We don’t want to be insensitive to the needs of day students, but the fact is that we have over 800 teenagers on campus in addition to ninety-five percent of the faculty,” said Sykes. No dorm or day student sleepovers were granted on Tuesday or Wednesday because of poor traveling conditions. All Academy offices, the Addison Gallery of American Art and the athletic complex were closed for the snow day. Work duty assignments and athletic commitments were cancelled for Wednesday. The Oliver Wendell Holmes Library closed early at 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday night, due to hazardous road conditions, but the library was open from 11:00 A.M. to 9:45 P.M. on Wednesday. Elizabeth Tully, Director of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, said, “I think that the changed hours were reasonable and appropriate. One thing that made it work is the fact that Ms. Alovisietti and I live on campus. Because of the importance of the library, it is essential that at least a couple of people be able to get in on foot in bad weather.” Only in the most extreme weather conditions will the administration cancel classes, the most recent example being Tuesday and Wednesday’s snowstorm, which dumped another foot and a half of snow on an already buried Andover. For this week’s decision, the administration thought it would be better to allow OPP more time and space to clear the campus without students on the pathways, attending classes. The administration is still fine-tuning its alert system. Murphy said, “The tradition [at Andover] is not to have snow days, so we don’t have a really perfect way to alert people [of them], mostly because they occur so rarely.” The school currently uses an emergency response system in addition to email notifications. In this response system, students and faculty receive an automated voicemail and text message alerting them of any changes. The administration has decided that sending messages to students’ cell phones is often the easiest and most efficient form of communication, mainly because most students do not check their email as often as their phones. “There is definitely a generational gap; most of [the students] will check their cell phones, but most adults check their email first. We try to use a layered approach,” Murphy said. While faculty, staff and students enjoyed their day off, the Students Activities Department facilitated last minute activities including the “Snow Day Dance”, free sled rentals, and a Harry Potter movie marathon to make student experiences more enjoyable. Although the storm cancelled all Wednesday sporting events, clubs, and meetings, the activities planned for this weekend will run without cancellations or delays. “Nothing SAB scheduled for this weekend should be affected by the storm. We’ve still got the student coffeehouse on Friday and the black-light dance on Saturday. In addition Abbot Cabaret should still be all set for Saturday night,” said Christopher Capano, Director of Student Activities. “It was a little tough to schedule activities that late in the game; most of the campus was closed and we couldn’t leave campus because travel was quite dangerous, but after consulting with the Dean of Students and the Student Activities Board we figured out a few things to put together,” he continued.