Superintendent of Schools
22 Main St.
West Newbury, MA 01985
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015
Contact: Jeff Mulqueen, Superintendent
Pentucket Regional Schools Closed for Remainder of the Week
WEST NEWBURY, Mass. — Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen reports that all Pentucket Regional School District schools, including the four elementary schools in Groveland, West Newbury, and Merrimac, Pentucket Regional Middle School, and Pentucket Regional High School will be closed for the remainder of the week.
In a message to parents, faculty, and staff, Superintendent Mulqueen cited the frequency and intensity of recent storms, another potentially major storm brewing for Thursday and Friday, and the already high levels of snow on the roofs of schools as contributing factors in the decision.
The closure for the rest of the week, and the scheduled February Vacation Week from Feb. 16-20 will give Pentucket maintenance crews time to remove snow from the grounds, parking lots, and roofs, which will ensure safety for students coming and going later this month.
However, the superintendent would like to make it clear that, despite earlier reports, the schools are not only being closed due to snow accumulating on rooftops. While this is a concern, it was one of several factors, stated above, that went into the decision.
“Typically, the snow has sufficient time to melt between storms so that the total weight remains within a low range. That has not been the case during the last couple of weeks. Recent snow storms and the storms predicted for the next few days raised my level of concern,” Superintendent Mulqueen said. “This weather pattern of frequent, intense snow storms has raised my concerns, and I feel that, in the interest of safety, we need to take the proper time to make sure everyone coming to school, driving on school grounds, and walking in the area, will be safe.”
The High School and Middle School each have 100,000 sq. ft. of roof space. Before it can all be cleared, snow in the immediate area needs to be cleared. Right now, there is no where to dump all of the snow from the roof without creating a potentially dangerous situation.
“Our vacation week serves as an added cushion of time for us to remediate the difficulties,” Superintendent Mulqueen said.
The Pentucket Regional School District is now in the process of carefully planning to fulfill the full, 180-day, school year. More information on that will be released in the coming weeks.
Full Text of Superintendent Mulqueen’s Letter to the Community:
Our weather pattern of frequent, high intensity snow storms raised my concern as our grounds crew completed clean up late yesterday afternoon. Snow levels on the roofs of schools have been monitored since the onset of our winter weather. This is a regular part of managing our schools through the winter months. Each roof has a 30 pound per square foot capacity and we monitor the snow levels carefully. Typically, the snow has sufficient time to melt between storms so that the total weight remains within a low range. That has not been the case during the last couple of weeks. Recent snow storms and the storms predicted for the next few days raised my level of concern.
It is usual for me to reach out to our town officials for counsel. I frequently connect with police chiefs, fire chiefs, and selectmen to talk over challenges that we face. The chairman of each town’s Board of Selectmen, Betty Gorski, Glenn Kemper, and Laura Mailman, generously agreed to join me for a meeting last night to talk over my concerns about the snow loads on the roofs of schools. They agreed with my assessment of the problem as well as resolving to clear the roofs as quickly as possible. The District and towns have a highly collaborative relationship that supports clear, effective resolution to issues. We all benefit from this productive relationship. I appreciate my partnership with town officials.
While we all agreed that the snow needed to be removed as quickly as possible, we also realized that it would take some time today to contact contractors and develop a schedule. The best course of action was to cancel school through the remaining days of this week to implement our strategy.
Unfortunately, the premature release of information by the local newspaper interrupted the usual flow of thorough communication that parents and staff have become accustomed to in Pentucket. Hopefully the information in this letter will help you understand the circumstances we are facing and that we are anticipating a quick turnaround with snow removal. The report of schools being inoperable through next week is an exaggeration. Our vacation week serves as an added cushion of time for us to remediate the difficulties. The high school and middle school roofs each have approximately 100,000 square feet of area. That is a lot of snow to remove and a lot of snow to move on the ground. A sizeable ground operation must be coordinated in tandem with the removal of snow from each roof. The operation at each elementary school will be as complex and labor intensive as that at the regional campus. We do not want to risk damage to the roof of any school.
Like many school districts, Pentucket will need to develop a plan that addresses our requirement for 180 days of school. The development of such a plan will require careful planning with the Pentucket Teachers’ Association and our school administrators. I look forward to sharing this information soon with parents and staff members.
Thank you for your support during this difficult time. I look forward to warmer weather!