How we determine if it’s too cold for schools to be open

coldThere has been a lot of misinformation swirling around online since last night regarding how we approach school cancellations due to cold weather. Please understand the following:

• First off, there’s no getting around the fact that it has been frigid across the region for the last few days. We are all now familiar with what a polar vortex is, and we certainly hope it never visits us again.

• On occasion, school districts do close as a result of cold temperatures. There is, however, no state law (as has been posted via social media) that mandates school districts close at a given temperature.

• Some school districts have a wind chill threshold that determines if schools will be closed. For Rochester Community Schools the figure is minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit of wind chill; in Kent County in west Michigan, the figure is minus 30 degrees. Some districts use an actual temperature threshold, as opposed to a wind chill; in Kalamazoo, for example, schools are closed at minus 15 degrees and colder. Many other districts do not have a policy for cold weather closures, and simply play it by ear.

• Lapeer Community Schools, like many of our neighbors, utilizes the National Weather Service Windchill Chart that dictates school closures when a combination of temperature and wind speed create conditions that can cause frostbite to exposed skin within 30 minutes. It is for this reason that all schools in Lapeer County, not just LCS, were open today.

• Given that standard, there is a wide variance of actual temperatures that can cause a closure. As an example, if the actual temperature were 5 degrees above zero with wind speeds at 40 miles per hour, schools would close (the wind chill would be minus 22 degrees). However, if the actual temperature were much colder, let’s say minus 15 degrees, schools would be open if there was no measurable wind. In that case, the wind chill and the actual temperature would be the same — minus 15 degrees.

• We canceled school on Tuesday because of the condition of the roads in the district; but, had there not been a snowstorm, we would have closed due to the cold temperature because wind speeds were over 20 mph. In that case, again, even actual temperatures above zero would cause a closure because of the elevated wind chill.

• Finally, closing schools is not a decision we, or officials from any school district, take lightly. Student safety is today and will always be our primary concern. We constantly monitor weather and road conditions before making decisions. We take recommendations from local agencies; we work closely with the road commission and neighboring school districts. We have a standard and we follow it.

28 Comments

  1. wendy

    SAFETY ….yet again I hear and see that word….. if safety was utmost then school would have been canceled with temps at 6am this morning….. you have your “agenda”and safety is not one of them…. you just don’t want to make up days. Shame on you Lapeer Community Schools

    1. lapeercs

      A couple things: If we didn’t care about safety, why did we cancel school the last three days? Further, the people in charge of evaluating conditions and making the ultimate decision to close/open have to work whether school is in session or not.

      1. Erica Shields

        those ppl ‘in charge’ that have to work or not…. dont have 2 stand outside for 30mins in -20 temps to wait for a bus. they can drive in their nice warm cars. not many people in this county have the luxury of driving their kids to school or letting their kids sit in a heated up car to wait for the bus. is lcs going to pay for all the money i waste in gas sitting & waiting on a bus that is never on time?? no! is lcs going to pay my doctor bills when my child catches cold from standing outside?? no! then when my child misses to many days due to being sick….then the threat of not advancing a grade becuase he/she isnt ready due to many missed days of school. You cant use the last 3 days as a precedent for showing you are concerened over safety of our children. No excuses!

      2. Harriet Weber

        Well, you are grown-ups not a bus load of little kids. You don’t have to stand outside and wait for a bus.Not a very gracious reply on your part. Whether or not you have to go to work regardless of whether or not school is in session has nothing to do with the issue.

      3. lapeercs

        I didn’t make it an issue. The implication was that district officials would decide not to close schools because they don’t want to have to come to work extra days. That’s a pretty mean-spirited implication. I just thought I should point out that the people making the decisions work year-round, whether we have to add days to the calendar or not.

  2. Kathy

    Let’s face it, the kids need an education. LCS does an excellent job at determining inclement weather days, typically they err a little too much on the side of caution but still, they are looking out for the KIDS safety. I think you need to give them some credit and learn how to bundle up your kids.

  3. Chris

    Our children’s safety was jepordized this morning…. The temp’s are one thing, but the fact that the roads are still ice covered is another. Are you forgetting what happened a few years ago in Lapeer due to making the bad choice of NOT cancelling school. I would rather my children go to school till then end of June then put anyone’s life at risk….

  4. cmw788

    Horrible choice not to close school. The roads were ICE this morning and still are and I’m sure will still be tomorrow morning……. Do you not remember what happened a few years ago????? Kids died…….

  5. Stephen Bonesteel

    SAFETY must not have been a concern. It was -19 degrees at my house in Mayfield Township. I have to stand at the bus-stop for 20 minutes every morning let alone my ten minute walk around my subdivision.. Sometimes my bus comes at 6:40. sometimes at 6:50. Give or take 5 minutes usually! I’d love to dress warmer, but I don’t have room in my locker for any more coats because of all the binders and AP books I have.

    So this morning I chose to stay home. But I could have easily went to school, gottten frostbite and found my families lawyer to make a lawsuit against the school.

    And don’t you think for five minutes that the school would win the lawsuit.

    1. lapeercs

      Stephen — How could it be that safety was a concern on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then ceased to be a concern on Thursday? There is no higher concern.

      Further, the school district cannot force students to come. You (or your parents) made a decision to stay home and that’s between you and your parents. Lawsuit?

      1. nate

        Technically, if a student if a student endures frost bite, hypothermia, or any type of injury at or while on the way to the bus stop due to sub zero temps or poor weather conditions and the schools decide to stay open, the family can file a lawsuit with the school district for neglect, and the family can sue for medical bills . I got this info from my uncle who is a lawyer, so next time there are sub zero temps, keep this in mind. Because I’d hate to see Lapeer schools reputation be destroyed and student enrollment drops more than it is.

      2. Erin

        I’ve Yet To Read Farther Than This Post… I Sincerely Hope Your Superiors Are Reading And Monitoring This. Your Responses Thus Far Are Rude, Petty, And Most Importantly, UNPROFESSIONAL! You Needn’t Attend Every Argument You Are Invited To. Rather Than Lose Your Cool And Escalate A Situation, You Should Choose NOT To Respond. Ridiculous To Argue With A Student In Such A fashion. I Question Your Own Age, And Qualifications For Such A Position.

      3. lapeercs

        I’ll politely disagree with you on that. I didn’t say anything remotely unprofessional to Stephen. Please read it again. I asked him a question, then I pointed out that we can’t force parents to send students to school. That’s it. As for his statement about a lawsuit, it just seemed a little far-fetched. Could I sue my employer for having to come to work on a day, like yesterday, when the roads were bad? I mean, I suppose I could but I wouldn’t win. I made the choice to come to work. You won’t find a single example in any of my responses of any personal attacks, threats or anything mean-spirited. That would certainly be unprofessional. I’m trying to keep people informed. I do the same thing when people call us “idiots” when we cancel school and they don’t agree. I explain the process, the policies, the implications and clarify any misinformation. I could just sit back and let misinformation and scuttlebutt stand unchallenged, but I choose not to. When certain people accuse the leadership team of the district of purposely putting students at risk, I’m going to respond. That’s offensive to anyone who knows the lengths to which folks who work in schools have to go to ensure student safety. I can understand criticism of the policy, but some of the things that are being said about people are just downright nasty.

  6. Kathy

    Thanks Lapeer Schools. I live in Michigan. My children live here too. We have winter clothing and whether the kids choose to wear it or not, I would rather them go to school now and have some summer to enjoy. Parents can always drive their kids or keep them home if they cannot endure what Michigan has to offer.

  7. Galadrial

    Because a lot of the students that live in rural setting in counties such as this, standing with fields on both sides, with nothing to stand near to block some of the wind, is worse than students that live in the city, by far. The frigid bite of having to wait for the bus in the middle of the fields is excruciating. THAT setting should be the defining point of if schools should be closed because of temperature, not in a protected setting.

    1. lapeercs

      Thursday was a strange case because the NWS registered 0 mph winds in the morning. Based on the NWS chart, as cold as it was it would have only taken a very small amount of wind to cross our threshold and close school.

  8. Elizabeth

    So as a parent, who made the right choice in keeping my kids home from school today, let me ask this, just how many kids stayed home today due to the frigid temps and the icy back roads?? I was very disappointed that the person in charge of calling school off thought it was perfectly acceptable for my kids to stand out in -17 degree temps this morning…(I don’t allow my dog to stay out for longer than two minutes in these frigid temps why in the world would I allow my children to?) Did they stand out in those temps? Did they get on a bus with the chance of the bus sliding down those icy back roads? I’m guessing no.. My kids were on the bus last year when school wasn’t called off, their bus slide backwards down a hill and then had to wait to be pulled out and were two hours late to school that day, where is that calling it safe or acceptable in any way? All I can say is as a parent my kids safety and wellbeing is my number one priority, as should it ALWAYS be for ALL school districts. We shouldn’t have to be in a polar vortex for these precautions to be followed. Over the years I have seen LCS fail in this area on more than a few occasions. As for there being no “law” for the state as to having to call off school, maybe that needs to change, they sure didn’t have any issues with extending school hours to make up any extra cancelled school days over the allowed six did they?!

  9. josh pitel

    Stephen is right if he or another student got frostbite from waitin at a bustop which is deemed school grounds per school handbook they could go afyer the sschool and most likely win. Seen it happen before

  10. Denny

    I’m a student from Imlay city and a lot of our bus’ were stuck in the snow. Many students came late to school. With freezing rain coming in tonight, I fear for the students that ride the bus even more. This is NOT because I don’t want to have school (I have a 3.9GPA), but rather I don’t want my friends getting hurt all because of going off a computer’s readings.

  11. Michael Shayn.

    Why do all you ppl whine about the lapeer school boards choices? Nobody is holding a gun to your head nor your children’s and forcing them to Waite for a bus or die of hypothermia at the bus stop or way too. If you feel it’s unsafe to send your child to school then keep them home! You come down on the board for not canceling school but then you put your child in harms way of sending them??? Stop the booowhoooing and grow up!! It’s michigan, weather happens…. If ya don’t like it then move!

  12. Tom Ternan

    “Lapeer Community Schools, like many of our neighbors, utilizes the National Weather Service Windchill Chart that dictates school closures when a combination of temperature and wind speed create conditions that can cause frostbite to exposed skin within 30 minutes. It is for this reason that all schools in Lapeer County, not just LCS, were open today.”

    That said, what is the windchill “threshold” that LCS will close schools. You state: “Thursday was a strange case because the NWS registered 0 mph winds in the morning. Based on the NWS chart, as cold as it was it would have only taken a very small amount of wind to cross our threshold and close school.” , but do not actually say what your threshold is! -18 degrees with zero wind is a -18 degree windchill. I am left to assume the “threshold is something lower than -18 degrees windchill.

    I want to know what the LCS threshold for windchill is. I am not interested in neighboring districts as my children do not attend in those districts.

    1. lapeercs

      Tom —

      The reason I use the term “threshold” is because it’s not a single degree figure. Schools will close when a combination of temperature and wind speed creates conditions that can cause frostbite to exposed skin inside of 30 minutes. So, for instance, at 10 degrees above zero with 60 mph winds the chill figure is minus 19. At five degrees and 50 mph it’s minus 24. If it’s minus five and 10 mph it’s minus 22. I hope that makes sense.

      1. Tom Ternan

        I understand the concept of “windchill”. According to the NOAA Wind Chill Chart at the link attached, a wind chill below -17 can cause frostbite after 30 minutes. With a recorded temperature of -18 on Thursday and no wind we had a windchill temperature of -18 degrees. This may be “close” to dangerous, but it does seem to fall within the vague criteria cited for school closure. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/images/apx/windchill.gif

  13. mes

    Thank you to all the people who are up early to consider all the conditions (roads, air temperatures, etc.) before making a call. I have had to make such decisions on a much smaller scale and find that it is a stressful one to make. You can never make everyone happy.

    As a parent, I understand I also have options. I can:
    1. have my children walk to and wait at the bus stop.
    2. drive my children (or ask a neighbor to drive them) to the bus stop and wait in a warm car until the bus arrives.
    3. drive my children to school.
    4. keep them home.
    I chose to drive my children to school. The roads (dirt, side streets, and main roads) were not as bad as I thought they would have been. (Which the administration probably already knew from the Road Commission.)

    That being said, I also understand that other parents have less options due to their inflexible work schedules. All parents do, however, have choices. Think it’s too cold to stand out for the bus and you can’t drive your child(ren) to school? Keep your child(ren) home. When you call the school to excuse your child(ren)’s absence, explain then why you are keeping your child(ren) home. Nobody is going to send a truancy officer to your home in that case. In this instance, as parents, we have the final say in the safety of our children.

    If you want to get some changes made, find the appropriate person to speak with, keep your calm, and be respectful. Your voice will be more likely to be heard. Attacking the schools on social media or in comments is not a productive way to get your point across.

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