Snow days pile up

Will North Bergen kids have to make up time at end of year?

Every child wishes for the occasional snow day, a respite from their studies that allows them to play in the same inclement weather that was serious enough to close schools and town halls.
This year, instead of the normal one or two school cancellations, the North Bergen Board of Education has declared three snow days already. And it is only the first week of February, the month where larger storms often bring high snow accumulations.
Tuesday and Wednesday, a storm that spanned almost all of the United States brought sleet, freezing rain, and rain to North Bergen, causing the North Bergen School district to close on Tuesday.
According to Superintendent Robert Dandorph, 15 inches of snow on Jan. 27 and 12 inches of snow on Jan. 12 also closed the schools down.


“We’ve never used more than five days.” – Robert Dandorph.

The district has also had delayed openings, which Dandorph said do count toward the 180 days the state requires schools to be open, as long as the delayed days cover four hours of school.
“We’ve never used more than five days [for snow in a given year],” said Dandorph.
He explained that every year, the district puts an extra five days into their schedule.
So if North Bergen is forced to declare three more inclement weather cancellations this year, they will have no choice but to cut days from the student’s spring vacation, which runs from April 21, a Thursday, to April 26, a Tuesday.

Tough decisions

Dandorph said that taking days of the students’ vacations is not something they want to do, since it would inconvenience families who may have vacations. At the same time, the state could revoke aid funding if they don’t have 180 days.
He said that deciding to close is a difficult decision because parents rely on the school to be open so that they can get to work.
Delayed openings also often result in higher absentee rates that day, he said.

Calling a snow day

Dandorph said that in the days before a storm, the district checks with At 4:30 a.m. on the day in question, Dandorph receives a phone call from Accuweather, alerting him of the weather. A chain of command is then followed, with Dandorph calling Mayor and Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Sacco, and Sacco calling Department of Public Works Commissioner Frank Gargiulo (also the superintendent of Hudson County Schools of Technology).
The next group of people Dandorph contacts are his fellow superintendents in neighboring towns, along with the township’s public of works employees, who are sent out around 4:30 a.m. to survey the status of the streets.
“For us, it’s the hills that scare us with our busses and things like that,” said Dandorph.
He said that this week’s ice storm was one of the most difficult to call. An inch or two of snow can be quickly removed and result in a delayed opening, but ice can cause driving hazards.
If a delayed opening or closing is decided, it is posted on the website and the Business Administrator Steven Somick records an announcement that within 30 minutes is sent by phone to not only all of the students, but to the faculty members as well.

Days adding up

When Dandorph was asked if he thought the district will exceed the normal five days, he replied that he could not tell.
“I’ve been surprised [with the weather],” said Dandorph. “I would doubt [we will go over five days], but to be honest with you, God only knows. Mother Nature can be a very violent thing.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at

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