WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Deciding Whether to Cancel School

Jan 28, 2014

To hold classes or not hold classes.  That is the difficult decision school districts around the region have faced numerous times already this year due to the bitterly cold and snowy conditions.

Macomb Superintendent Patrick Twomey takes a look at the weather forecast, but he also likes to conduct his own research while making the decision. For example, Sunday night he headed out for a brief walk to get a feel for the conditions.

Credit flickr

“I put on a light coat and I decided to see how far I could walk. No hat, no gloves, just walking outside in those conditions,” said Dr Twomey.

He said it was so cold that after seven blocks he called his wife to pick him up instead of walking back home.

He said a wind chill of -20 is usually his cut-off point. He feels anything colder truly puts children at risk.

Twomey said when snow is in the weather forecast, he gets up at 3:30 am and is on the road by 4:00 am.  He drives the county roads around the district for about an hour-and-a-half.

“I try to get different corners of the (district) and that takes a while.”

Superintendent Patrick Twomey
Credit Rich Egger

Twomey said he checks several north-south and east-west roads, trying to determine whether a school bus could safely make the trip on those roads.  He said he’s not afraid of getting stuck, though he acknowledged if he did get stuck, it would make it easier to decide to call off classes.

The Macomb superintendent said he also keeps one other factor in mind when deciding whether to cancel classes. He said nearly half of the district’s children qualify for free or reduced price lunches and – for many of them – their best meal of the day comes from school.  He wants to make sure they get that meal if it’s at all possible to safely get them to and from school.