No Good Reason for School Cancellation Monday, Superintendent Says
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point School District was one of the few in Central Wisconsin on Monday to keep running on schedule despite dangerously low wind chills.
Wausau and Waupaca were among the many districts who gave students off on what should have been the first day back to school after the winter break. With wind chills pushing 40 below zero in some spots, even Granite Peak shut down its slopes on Monday due to cold temps.
But students in Stevens Point did return to classes as scheduled Monday. Superintendent Attila Weninger said safety considerations are a top priority when looking at a school cancellation, but in this case the circumstances didn’t warrant closure.
“First of all the weather conditions are very different from last year,” Weninger said, referring to the 2014 Polar Vortex which shut down schools locally for two consecutive days and on more than one occasion. “The wind chill (on Monday) with gusts was going to be 35 below but was not a sustained temperature.”
Weninger also pointed out that school is Wisconsin Rapids was not canceled, despite much colder wind chills there.
The Stevens Point District didn’t have a large amount of snow accumulation, so drifting snow and icy roads would not be an issue for transporting kids to school, he added. Temperatures were expected to rise throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service, and weather was expected to be sunny- considerations Weninger said his office also took into account.
Weninger said along with information from city and county emergency services, his office consults the National Weather Service, local doppler stations and the federal weather agency NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) prior to deciding to close school, but also said the final decision is his alone.
Weninger said he approached the situation like a business owner.
“If I were a business, and I knew 85 to 90 percent of my customers were going to come in during this cold weather period, would I keep my business open? Absolutely I would; it’s the same here,” he said. “To call off schools, you’re affecting 1,000 employees, 7,500 kids; you’re affected thousands of parents who have to make daycare arrangements.”
Weninger said students who were kept home by their parents will not be penalized; a similar courtesy he extended last year during inclement weather.
“Parents could certainly keep their kids home from school if they felt conditions were unsafe,” he said. “Those kids will not be penalized, their absence will be marked as ‘excused’.”
District officials kept an eye on the weather throughout the weekend, he said, and ensured buildings and buses were in proper working order, but said the weather wasn’t extreme enough to warrant cancellation.
“I’d rather talk about why those districts didn’t have school,” he said. “I think that’s a more interesting story.”