Closing a school district for an extended period is never an easy choice, but one made necessary in Wellington this past week due to snow, ice, and subzero wind chill temperatures, said superintendent Ed Weber.
There is no set temperature at which schools must close. Many districts set their benchmark at wind chills exceeding -15 degrees or snowfalls of over five inches.
“Frostbite is what we’re most concerned about for our students who walk or wait at a stop,” Weber said. “You have to think about that wind chill factor. When the snow falls, how quickly the roads are cleared and lingering ice also play into a decision to close. Fog can also be an extreme danger to our vehicles. There’s probably more than a dozen reasons that factor in.”
Many administrative meetings and some sports events still went on as planned throughout the week.
Weber said the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine was once closed for 10 consecutive days while he served as principal there during a stretch of extremely cold weather. “Cleveland does not like to close,” he said. “Many districts don’t like to close, and we feel the same way here in Wellington.”
According to state law, schools must be open a set number of hours per year in order to avoid having make-up days in June. Legislation switched from minimum day to minimum hour requirements in July 2014.
Half-day kindergarten classes must convene at least 455 hours per school year, full-day kindergarten though sixth grade must be open for 910 hours, and seventh through 12th grade must have 1,001 hours.
“The state rule used to be five calamity days,” Weber said. “When the switch was made to hours, we got an additional allowance of excess time in our calendar. Right now, we’re not too concerned with meeting the state minimum this year.”
Some districts across the country have turned to virtual classrooms on days that schools are forced to close. Others have gone as far as deciding to never cancel school regardless of weather conditions and encouraging parents to make the final decision on sending their children out.
“On the instruction side, we lose out in this situation and that’s obviously a concern for a district trying to improve its academic performance,” Weber said. “We need that time preciously. It does hurt to close but so does not thinking about student safety, especially our younger students who can’t always fend for themselves. We need to make sure they’re not in any type or risky situation.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.