CLEVELAND (WJW) – Nearly 100 school districts in Northeast Ohio closed due to cold weather Thursday, but others opted to remain open based on their thresholds for cancellation and local weather conditions.
Wind chills Thursday morning ranged from -5 in Cleveland to -12 in Akron/Canton and -14 in Lorain.
Conditions and policies varied by district. Many districts in Lorain, Medina, Stark and western Cuyahoga counties closed, while school districts in much of Geauga, Lake and eastern Cuyahoga counties remained open.
“Wind chill is the number one factor,” said Parma City School District Superintendent Dr. Charles Smialek.
He said the district closes when wind chills reach about -10 degrees. Smialek said superintendents often communicate with others in neighboring districts before determining whether to close.
“We all want to be conscious of not being left on an island, so to speak,” he said. “We want to be consistent. How are we all reading this? How are we all perceiving this?”
Schools also consider how many students walk to school and would therefore be outside for longer periods of time.
“That is a real consideration,” Smialek said.
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has a -15 degree wind chill threshold for closure, so it remained open Thursday. It said keeping kids in school with access to meals is a priority.
Wickliffe City Schools Superintendent Joe Spiccia said wind chills in Wickliffe reached -7 degrees, but remained above the -12 to -15 degrees threshold it uses for closure, so the district remained open.
“You’re on the cusp, you’re on the edge,” he said. “You know if you close school that’s going to make some people happy, that’s going to make some people not happy.”
He said Wickliffe does not have many students who walk to school and neighboring districts also stayed open.
“If everybody is staying open, we feel safe that we’re making the right decision for students,” Spiccia said.
He said he used the National Weather Service wind chill chart, which indicates the length of outdoor exposure that can cause frost bite and varies based on temperature and wind speeds.