So as I sit here on the computer as the ice piles up on my car windshield (the scraping will start soon so I can get to campus–once I know that I can get there and not get in the way of those trying to salt and scrape so we can all go to work), I thought I would take a few minutes to writer about what goes into the decision for a delayed start or closure.
Let’s take today’s mess as an example. The weather forecasts started their warning almost a week ago–far too soon to be taken seriously, but soon enough to make plans to plan. By last Friday, the forecast was closer to reality, but still not clear. So that left Sunday to watch the weather forecasts and actually take a look outside and see what was happening.
By Sunday evening, a series of phone calls and e-mails start setting our response. By 8 pm Sunday evening, only 4 area K-12 schools had announced delayed starts, and no one had closed. Forecast was still not all that clear, so we put out the announcement that we were going to continue to monitor the weather.
By about 5 am this morning, it was pretty clear that the ice was here and the roads were a mess. Numerous K1-2 schools were delayed or closed, and colleges and universities were announcing as well. So we made the decision to delay the start and got the word out as soon as we could this morning. Even now as I write this, we are still watching the weather to see what is actually going to happen and if we will be able to get the campus ready.
When we think about delayed starts and closures, we think first about safety–can we get the campus itself cleared of snow and ice so that people can get to campus, park and get around? But campus isn’t our only concern–if the roads and highways that people use to get to campus aren’t clear, then it doesn’t much matter if campus is clear. The majority of our students commute, and our faculty and staff also have to commute–many from long distances.
The decision to close or delay is not easy and there is no simple formula. Make the call to early (witness the super storm of a few weeks ago that went from “storm of the century” to 2-3 inches of slush in a matter of hours) and we have an empty campus, missed classes (particularly troublesome for once a week classes) and cancelled activities. Fail to make the right call and we have students, faculty and staff struggling to get to campus and then either stranded or having to fight the elements to get home.
So we look at all the factors and we make the best call we can with the knowledge we have.
And that is why I am waiting for the ice to melt a bit before I take to the roads and head in to campus today.