With a cold front frosting the Akron area this weekend, the holiday break for many area schools could be extended.
While many schools consider 10 to 15 below zero an “appropriate threshold” for canceling class, there’s no set temperature. And determining whether to close school isn’t as simple as checking a thermometer; school officials will be monitoring wind chills and snow accumulation as the cold front moves in Sunday afternoon.
By law, schools can cancel class five times per year, for any reason, before having to make up additional days in the spring. Next year, the academic calendar moves from days to instructional hours, allowing schools to extend days to make up for lost hours.
Akron last exhausted its five “calamity days” during the 2010-11 school year. So far, a water main break in October has led only one Akron school to take a day off.
Severe weather could change that, threatening schools to tally a snow day on Monday or a cold day on Tuesday. Akron and other schools expect 3 to 7 inches of snow Sunday night and temperatures on Tuesday morning to rival a 1942 record low of minus 5.
“Undoubtedly there will be a wind chill advisory or warning at that moment,” said meteorologist Tom King with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
For urban school districts — including Akron, Barberton and Cuyahoga Falls — road conditions aren’t the only factor.
“We’ve got 21,000 students,” said Deb Foulk, business manager for Akron. “I transport about 6,000 of those students and the rest are walkers.”
“Knowing that kids are walking, I’m pretty sensitive to that,” Barberton Superintendent Patti Cleary agreed. “I don’t want them out there.”
Cleary said she could announce a closure due to cold weather as early as Sunday night.
The pre-storm-front, 30-degree weather on Saturday and Sunday isn’t expected to return until Thursday or Friday, with a trough of low temperatures in between.
“I don’t know the medical statistics about how fast skin freezes, but we’re looking at Tuesday morning ‘bus-stop temperature’ — let’s call it — at 15 degrees below zero. And that is extremely dangerous just to be standing outside,” King said.
Single-digit temperatures Monday morning should feel much colder for students walking sidewalks or waiting for buses. On Tuesday morning, a minus-15 reading is forecasted to feel more like minus 36 after factoring in winds of 10 to 15 mph. Likewise, drifting snow Wednesday morning should chill the air, making it feel like 24 below zero.
Snowfall expected tonight should subside as temperatures plummet on Monday morning.
That’s when school officials, some starting as early as 1:30 a.m. in Akron, will be checking parking lots, sidewalks and driving the streets.
In the Waterloo district, Superintendent Matthew Montgomery hopes to make a decision by 5:30 a.m., as he did on Thursday when he canceled school before snow fell in the afternoon.
Normally communicating with other school chiefs helps. But Montgomery made the decision alone as most area schools remained closed for the holiday break through Friday.
Snow was the greater factor in Waterloo, where nearly every student drives or catches a ride to school.
“Sidewalks aren’t really an issue. The roads are the main driving force,” Montgomery said, noting that regardless of how kids get to school, every district in the area will be keeping an eye not only on the streets, but the thermometers, too.
“Next week is going to be particularly challenging when they forecast the lowest temperatures in decades,” Montgomery said.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.