WEST FARGO — A record-setting October snowstorm created a rare occurrence for metro area school districts, as West Fargo Public Schools cancelled school and all activities Friday, Oct. 11, but Fargo and Moorhead schools remained open.
West Fargo district spokeswoman Heather Leas said classes and activities were cancelled on Friday in West Fargo due to the district's higher number of students who live in rural areas.
"It's rare to see that departure of whether to close or not. But when we do, it's because we have more rural students than Fargo," Leas said.
In a message to parents, West Fargo Superintendent Beth Slette said staff members checked the rural bus routes early Friday and found the roads to be slippery, with limited visibility and ditches full of water.
"Thinking about having teenage drivers and large buses out in those conditions would not be best," Leas said.
Leas said another reason for the decision was because of the unique nature of the storm.
When meeting with local school officials, a climatologist from North Dakota State University pointed out that this storm has a very steep gradient that runs almost along the Fargo-West Fargo border, which means that on the west side of the storm's gradient, areas can expect to see more snowfall than on the east side, Leas said.
"So we will probably see different snow totals in West Fargo than Fargo and Moorhead," Leas said. "You really don't see that often that the gradient goes right down the middle of Fargo and West Fargo."
AnnMarie Campbell, spokeswoman for Fargo Public Schools, said closure decisions are left to each district.
"We work together, but we do make decisions independently," Campbell said. "Even though we're close, weather can impact us just slightly different. The overall closing of the schools has a tremendous impact on our parents and families."
Campbell said Fargo Superintendent Rupak Gandhi looked at many factors before making the decision to remain open Friday, including predicted wind speeds as well as where and when the most snowfall was forecast to occur.
Slette pointed out that if classes were not cancelled on Friday and storm or road conditions worsened, it could put the district's students and staff in difficult positions.
"It is my goal to always err on the side of caution, with the safety of our students and staff in mind," Slette said. "Making weather-related decisions is one of the more difficult tasks for district administration, as safety and convenience for families are often on opposite ends of the decision made."