The first day back to school from Thanksgiving break will be a short one for local students who returned to class Tuesday.
The State College Area School District will dismiss middle and high school students at 12:15 p.m. and elementary students at 1 p.m. Bald Eagle Area School District will dismiss all students at 12:30 p.m.
“We made the decision at 10:30 a.m. after we interacted all morning with local weather experts and municipalities,” SCASD superintendent Bob O’Donnell said. “Our focus relates to the safety of our students and staff, and the order of dismissal relates to the fact our secondary schools began school first, and to our high school’s student drivers. I prioritize making sure student drivers get on and off roads as soon as possible for their safety.”
Bellefonte Area and Philipsburg-Osceola Area school district students had scheduled days off on Tuesday.
The Penns Valley Area School District didn’t have school Tuesday because it was a regularly scheduled vacation day, but the weather led to the cancellation of all school activities.
Tuesday originally was a snow makeup day from last week, but the district on Nov. 25 changed the day back to a vacation day, district spokesman Nate Althouse said.
O’Donnell said he spoke on Monday with Van Swauger, SCASD’s transportation director, about Tuesday’s weather. He again spoke with Swauger at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, and they began to interact with local weather experts and municipalities.
O’Donnell and local school district superintendents also held conference calls at 5:10 a.m. and 10 a.m. to discuss weather and road conditions. He said his main concern was the potential for freezing rain later in the afternoon.
“In our weather region the weather systems can change very rapidly, so we obviously are constantly monitoring weather patterns for the safety of or students,” O’Donnell said. “There are about 7,000 students in our school district, and three of them are mine, so I’m always going to listen to the local weather experts. If we ever make a mistake, it’s going to be the mistake of being too cautious.”
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines said snowfall will likely turn into freezing rain.
“I think between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. there might be a little bit of a freezing drizzle,” Kines said. “Between 4 p.m. and 8 pm, I think there could be heavier precipitation, and it could cause some travel problems. I think eventually any precipitation will be rain or drizzle as temperatures rise at ground level later tonight and into early tomorrow morning.”
Freezing rain comes from above freezing cloud temperatures and below freezing ground temperatures.
“It was cold out there this morning, and we have precipitation coming through today,” Kines said. “The first batch brought us snow. Even though the ground is at freezing temperatures, up where the clouds are it’ll be warmer up there later today.
“It’ll be about 35, 36 degrees where the clouds are, so the rain will get colder when it gets down close to the ground and freeze when it hits. That’s why we’ll get some freezing rain.”