To close, or not to close? Schools face tough decisions with cold temperatures

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To close, or not to close?

Lately, it's the question hanging over the heads of school administrators nearly every day.

Some districts, including Solon, Westlake and Bay Village, have been open all week, while others like Akron, Canton, and Cleveland closed both Monday and Tuesday.

Some school districts opened one day and closed the other, despite very similar weather conditions, indicating just how subjective the choice to close schools can be.

Official wind chills at Cleveland Hopkins were minus 16 degrees at 5 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday, while wind chills in Akron reached minus 14 degrees Monday and minus 18 degrees Tuesday. Wind chills dropped even lower by 7 a.m., when schools begin to open.

Despite the day-to-day similarity in wind chills, school districts including Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Medina, Mentor and Chardon closed one day and stayed open the other.

Chardon Superintendent Michael Hanlon said his decision to open Tuesday was a fifty-fifty move and he weighed the fact the district has used eight calamity days, exceeding the five allowed by the state.

The district will have to make some days up at the start of summer.

“The temperatures at 5:30 a.m. or so, when we're making that decision, were marginally better than yesterday. The wind chills were a little less, and the temperatures were a little higher,” Hanlon said Tuesday, adding the district does not use a steadfast wind chill or temperature mark to determine closings, but instead considers a variety of factors on a day by day basis.

“The decision to close school is always something we take seriously, and the safety and security of our students is our top priority,” he said.

A spokesperson for Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools said the district received complaints from parents after staying open Monday. It closed Tuesday, citing cold wind chills.

Meteorologists said temperatures can vary widely across Northeast Ohio, and lead to varying decisions on closures.

Several school district leaders pointed out ongoing state testing has not factored into their decision-making process. There are make-up dates, they said, and Ohio has extended the allotted time for testing due to weather cancellations.

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