Weather-related school closing decisions are never easy

Superintendent Nylajean R. McDaniel, Ph.D.

This winter has tested the mettle of even the most winter-immune Northeast Ohioans. The frigid temperatures and frequent snow storms meant that CH-UH City School District administrators were faced even more often with that thorny decision: how bad must the weather be before school is called off? 

As much as parents and administrators would prefer hard-and-fast rules about when school closes due to weather conditions, such a rigid system isn’t being, and can’t really be, used. Every situation is different and has to be judged independently. Closing school is never an easy decision because every minute of instruction time counts.

Obviously, the number one consideration is student safety and welfare. A large number of our students walk to school, so we have to be more cognizant of extreme cold and wind chill than other districts may be. Additionally, we try to make decisions as early as possible, to allow parents to plan accordingly, but not so early that changing conditions may leave schools closed for no reason. 

And most importantly, we try to make the decision that will fit the majority of our students. We recognize a school-closing decision may not always fit with individual family circumstances, so we strongly encourage our families to make the decision that is best for them.

Our process for determining school closure due to severe weather is similar to the process used by most schools in this region, although the decisions we arrive at may not always be the same. We gather information from multiple local weather forecasts and firsthand reports from our grounds crew, who drive bus routes to help assess if roads are safe for student travel. 

As superintendent, I consult with other nearby school district administrators, while weighing the weather forecasts. Sometimes we also consult with the police department and utility companies. In the event of extreme cold, our policy is to close schools if the National Weather Service issues a wind chill warning just before the school day begins. Schools will not necessarily be closed if there is a wind chill advisory for the county.

Nylajean R. McDaniel

Nylajean R. McDaniel is superintendent of the CH-UH City School District, and a 37-year resident of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 7, Issue 4, Posted 9:04 AM, 03.17.2014