Each year, Deerfield, Massachusetts gets an average of 43 inches of snow. Despite this formidable annual snowfall, this year marked the first snow day in recent Academy history.
When Director of Security David Gendron expects a storm, he closely tracks it and consistently updates Head of School Margarita Curtis with details. Dr. Curtis explained how she approaches the situation: “I usually make the decision on how to deal with a snow storm, but always in consultation with a few members of senior staff.”
This year, three large snowstorms have already hit campus, and snow banks are growing quickly. The Daily Bulletin has posted blizzard warnings and updates twice over the past month. When another few feet of snow was predicted for after Long Winter Weekend, Dean of Students Amie Creagh announced the cancellation of school “to allow for travel in safer conditions.”
Some students and faculty speculated that Head of School Day doubled as a snow day this year, as it coincided with a blizzard. In response, Dr. Curtis commented, “I wanted the day to be a surprise. . . I picked the date when I realized that the Patriots would play in the Super Bowl. The storm was not the determining factor, but I’m glad the day off coincided with the storm.”
Curtis also emphasized that the safety of the community is her top priority; she would consider a snow day in the case of a severe blizzard with dangerous conditions. Ms. Creagh’s explanation for the snow day in February reflected this concern.
Along with the administration’s concerns, the Physical Plant’s hard work ensures the safety of the Deerfield campus. During the winter months, the Grounds Crew works especially hard to salt, sand and plow the snow and ice that burden campus.
In order to provide safe conditions, the Grounds Crew begins its work long before students and faculty start the day.
Manager of Grounds and Infrastructure Construction Brett Gewanter, who has worked at Deerfield since 1997, reiterated Dr. Curtis’s main concern for the community’s safety: “We usually start plowing around 4 in the morning in a sequence,” Gewanter explained. “At 5, we start with the Dining Hall so that area is open for the Dining Hall staff. Around 6 a.m., we clean up the Physical Plant area for parking. Finally we open up the sidewalks for school to start.”
The Grounds Crew faces various challenges, such as the length and timing of the storm, as well as the fluctuating temperatures.
Jodi Tanguay, who has worked as a member of Grounds Crew since 2000, recounted the worst storm in her time at Deerfield: “The head of the grounds department had to walk from his house a mile and a half away just to get the school’s large bucket-loader, so he could clear his road and driveway in order to get his 4X4 truck with a plow to campus. [It was] 3 a.m., [with] two to three feet of snow, he has only slept for a few hours, and it was still snowing.”
Both Mr. Gewanter and Ms. Tanguay noted their appreciation for student efforts to help clean up after a storm.
Finally, Ms. Tanguay commented that students are not the only ones who dream of snow days: “For me, the hardest thing about cleaning up after a storm is not being able to just stay home and play.”