School closings based on a variety of weather factors

School closings based on a variety of weather factors

School closings based on a variety of weather factors
February 20
02:22 2014

Javier Navarro // Staff Writer

On the cold and icy evening last Monday, numerous UNT students were waiting for a final verdict from the university.

Several campuses in Denton, such as the Denton Independent School District and Texas Women’s University, announced their decisions to close before UNT did.

UNT finally announced at about midnight that campus would be closed on Feb. 11, but not before students took to social media to express their anticipation and frustration. Many students were making light of the situation, tweeting out jokes and memes.

The decision to cancel school has been a recent hot topic among UNT students during snow and ice days. While students went to Twitter and Facebook to express displeasures, many of the decision makers for UNT and other educational institutions in Denton were faced with an important decision.

During the ice storm in December, UNT had to shut down campus for several days, which affected the finals schedule. Students also went to social media to express their frustrations with the way finals were handled. One student even started an online petition to put finals online, which garnered 8,008 signatures.

One of the reasons the decision to cancel school can be difficult is due to the unpredictability of the weather, Warren Burrgen, provost and vice president for academic affairs, told the NT Daily in December. On Tuesday Dec. 10, UNT was originally supposed to open, but an eagle alert was sent out during that day to announce that school would be cancelled.

“One of the things that was really difficult and why we had these rolling announcements was that two nights in a row, it was almost ten degrees colder than it had been forecast,” Burggren said in the article. “One of the Tuesday night late announcements was simply because it was much colder than they had predicted and there hadn’t been the degree of melting that we anticipated.”

Burggren also said that former UNT president V. Lane Rawlins made the final decision and stayed in contact with him throughout the days.

Many other schools and even the city also have the responsibility to decide whether to keep offices open during ice or snow days.

Sharon Cox, Denton ISD director of public information, said there are steps that go into deciding to cancel school. Many school officials drive around the streets to check on road conditions themselves while also keeping an eye on weather updates.

Cox also said that the district makes it a priority to announce the decision the night before school in order for parents to plan ahead. The deadline to close school is before buses arrive to pick-up students, which is at 6:30 a.m.

“We are in constant contact with our transportation department and our local emergency and police officials,” Cox said. “When we see ice on the roads and see accidents, we try to make the decision the night before [school].”

The decision for the school district is ultimately up to the superintendent, Jamie Wilson, Cox said.

The Denton emergency management office provides weather information for the city from The National Weather Service in Fort Worth. It then reports it to the city and residents.

Michael Penaluna, emergency management coordinator of the Denton fire department, is responsible for coordinating major emergencies or disasters that affect the city. In the event of bad weather situations in the city, Penaluna said they will send out information about specific weather emergencies or which roads will be closed.

One way information can be received is by an emergency notification system called Code Red—which Penaluna described as an “Eagle Alert for Denton residents.”

“When something does happen—and it could be a missing child or any type of incident that’s weather related—we send out the information through the system,” Penaluna said.

While the Denton City Manager’s Office is responsible for making the final decision to close city offices, Penaluna said the city takes the weather information he sends out into consideration.

The weather is currently warm as spring is slowly approaching and the ice storm is in the past. Burggren said he would look into the choices the university made from the ice storm.

Feature photo: Snow day on UNT campus. Photo courtesy of Gary Payne/UNT

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