main content starts here

Cold…To close or not to close

A message from Superintendent Rich Hughes

I spent last night and this morning doing what I do every other day during the winter, checking the weather reports to see if there was a reason for concern.  The decision to close is easy when there is a 100% chance that a snowstorm is going to hit—as was the case the past two Mondays. With cold and especially wind chill, that decision becomes much tougher. There are many thoughts that ultimately go into my decision.

The big question is always, “Is it safe to get our students to school.” The roads aren’t an issue as the area road crews have done a great job dealing with the snow from the past two storms. Cold then becomes the issue. And then, do we close or do we delay?

Too often when one school delays or closes, others jump in to avoid possible criticism but is that the best course of action for our Thunder?

A two-hour delay works when the conditions are going to get better over the delay.  Based on today’s weather reports, the temperature would either stay the same or get even slightly colder between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. In this instance, a delay made no sense because the conditions were not going to improve significantly.

Then it becomes a determination if closing is warranted. Wind chill presents a conundrum. The wind chill temperature is not the actual temperature, but what the temperature feels like when the wind blows.  The stronger the wind blows, the lower the temperature feels. Weather services put out a wind chill advisory for our area. There have been other times this month where the temperatures were actually colder, but the wind was predicted to be low or non-existent, so there was no wind chill advisory. When a student sends me a picture message showing the wind chill at -27°F, that’s not the actual temperature, but what the temperature could be for that instance—if the wind blew at its predicted maximum. Predicting the wind on a moment-to-moment basis from locale-to-locale is a fool’s errand. I would be better off trying to predict the Powerball numbers.

Finally, it comes down to making a choice for all students. For many of our students, school is their safe harbor.  It’s a warm place with two meals, where they can be supported both academically and emotionally.

Parents, especially in instances like today, have the choice to send their children to school or not. If we close when the temperatures dip, then I take that opportunity from those students that really need and want to be in school.

In the end, if I believe it’s safe to send my PreK child off to the bus stop for school, then I have to believe it’s safe sending all our children off to school.