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Albrecht Powell

How Do Schools Decide When to Delay or Close Due to Inclement Weather?

By February 13, 2008

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It was definitely a mess outside this morning as snow started to fall heavily just as school buses were beginning their rounds throughout the Pittsburgh region. This on top of a layer of frozen ice and slush from the combination of Tuesday's 5 inches of snow followed by rain. Yet even with the terrible conditions, more than half of Pittsburgh area schools (my childrens' included) did not call for a two-hour delay. Telephone lines at most local radio and television stations were sizzling for hours with parents asking "why not?"

While our district did not call for a delay, I was one of the lucky ones. Our township always does an excellent job of keeping the local roads clear (even in the neighborhoods) and both of the kids' school buses came right on time. Even so, there was a report of at least one minor bus accident in our district. The stories of other parents aren't so positive, however. The news was full of reports of school buses stuck or involved in accidents, children left standing out at bus stops in the frigid temperatures for over an hour with no bus in sight, and children arriving at school only to find out their teacher hadn't been able to make it in.

Most area school districts, including the Pittsburgh Public Schools, defended their decision not to delay school by stating that the roads were fairly clear at 5:00 a.m. when the decision was made. With snow in the forecast for later in the morning, the thinking was to get the students into school before the snow started to fly, and that a two-hour delay would probably only make things worse.

So who is in charge of making the decision to close or delay school due to inclement weather? In the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Superintendent makes the final decision according to their Inclement Weather Policy, based on reports from the district Director of Transportation who "confers with the weather bureau, the Chief Operations Officer and the District's bus companies, including the Port Authority." Most area districts follow a similar procedure. School is also generally delayed or closed when wind chills are -6 or lower, based on guidelines sent to superintendents by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

Related: School Closings & Delays

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