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Mayor Walsh stands by decision to cancel school

Ibrahim Bawazeer, 6, who was visiting Boston from Saudi Arabia and saw snow for the first time, inspected a snowman left on the Public Garden. By late afternoon, the snow was mostly gone.
Ibrahim Bawazeer, 6, who was visiting Boston from Saudi Arabia and saw snow for the first time, inspected a snowman left on the Public Garden. By late afternoon, the snow was mostly gone.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

As a bright sun hit clear pavement Monday afternoon, Mayor Martin J. Walsh stood by his decision to cancel school because of snow — even if the snow didn’t amount to much and parents were inconvenienced on the breezy first day of spring.

“I’m not apologizing,’’ Walsh said before an event at the Dorchester YMCA. “The forecast said it was going to be 4 to 8 inches [of snow], the heaviest in the morning commute. And I’m always going to take kids’ safety first, above and beyond anything.”

But Christine MacDonald, a South Boston mother who works the night shift, said the cancellation interrupted her daytime sleep. She spent the day finding ways to entertain her 4-year-old son, Deryan, who attends kindergarten. And she had a few choice words for the mayor after the city received a grand total of 3.6 inches of snow, most of which had melted by the afternoon.

“This snow day? Bogus,’’ said an incredulous MacDonald, while a joyful Deryan played on a rocking car in the arcade at Boston Bowl in Dorchester. “This isn’t a safety issue.”

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Barbara Peterlin, a North End resident, was also making the most of her daughters’ day off by taking them to lunch at Faneuil Hall. She recalled the record-breaking 110-plus inches of snow that pummeled Boston last winter and said her girls — 12th-, eighth-, and sixth-graders — should have been in school Monday.

“Being hearty New Englanders that we are — having gone through last winter — it does seem a little borderline unnecessary,’’ she said. “The [mayor’s] intentions are in the right spot, but the reality is we could have been and should have been in school.”

With Monday’s cancellation of classes, Boston schools have recorded three snow days this academic year, compared to eight last year, school department officials said.

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Walsh said he and other city officials paid close attention Sunday to weather forecasters, monitored news reports, and tried to plan ahead. It marked the first time during his tenure, he said, that he cancelled school for what wound up being a false alarm.

“It’s one of those things you can’t win,’’ he said. “This year, I’m not too worried about it. . . We’re not cutting into education time and having to add days like we did last year, which was unfortunate. But it’s one of those things.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” the mayor said.

Before the weekend, forecasters warned about the potential for substantial snowfall, as meteorologists watched a storm system moving from the West Coast, said Bill Simpson, a spokesman for the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Heeding forecasters’ early warning, Walsh said he consulted with Superintendent Tommy Chang and decided about 5:30 p.m. Sunday to close schools.

Officials from the Office of Emergency Management, Public Works Department, Boston Police Department, and others were involved in the discussions, city officials said.

But by 10 p.m. Sunday, the forecast had taken a turn, Simpson said. Weather models, which had been flip-flopping, began predicting Boston would be spared a significant storm, he said.

In the end, Dracut got 6.8 inches, the area around Interstate 495 got 4 to 6 inches, and Boston had 3.6 inches, Simpson said.

As he sought to defend his decision, the mayor noted that nearly 30 other public school districts also declared a snow day.

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“If we didn’t close schools, we’d probably have 3 feet of snow today,’’ he said at an earlier event Monday.

MacDonald, the mother from South Boston, said her friends say the mayor made the right call.

“But I don’t think so,’’ she said. “I’ve lived in Boston my whole life, and this is just another day.”


Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.