School chiefs sometimes wait to decide on closing

School chiefs sometimes wait to decide on closing

While many area school districts called Wednesday's snow day by Tuesday evening, Champaign, Urbana and a few other districts waited until the wee hours of the morning to cancel school.

Superintendents said they were waiting to see how the overnight snowfall affected road conditions.

The snow stopped about 8:45 p.m., and forecasts called for an additional accumulation of 2 to 4 inches through noon Wednesday, said Urbana Superintendent Don Owen.

Owen planned to keep schools open if conditions didn't worsen overnight, and he and Champaign school Superintendent Judy Wiegand agreed to wait until the morning to make the call.

Owen said it had started snowing lightly around 10:30 or 11 p.m. when he went to bed. When he woke up at 3 a.m., there was another 5 inches of snow on his driveway, which he'd shoveled the night before.

He called Wiegand and superintendents from other districts that hadn't called off school yet, including Rantoul, and they talked to transportation and public works officials. While city crews had kept main routes fairly open, many side streets were blocked by a wall of snow at the intersections, Owen said.

"We knew then we were dealing with the larger end of the snowfall rather than the smaller end," Owen said. "The streets weren't passable. There was no good way to get kids there safely."

He said the decision is never an easy one.

"I would always like to err on giving parents as much notice as possible. I also don't want to close school if we could have been in with no problems."

As of mid-afternoon, Wiegand said no call had been made about school on Thursday. She planned to check conditions and forecasted wind chills for 6 or 7 a.m.

An advisory from the National Weather Service called for below-zero temperatures by sunrise Thursday, with readings expected to stay below 10 degrees for the day.

Wind chills were expected to fall to 15 to 25 below zero after midnight, and "lingering at dangerous levels through Thursday morning."

Wiegand said it was "more than likely" that Champaign would have limited bus service on Thursday.

"I think it's still going to be difficult on the country roads," she said.

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on February 05, 2014 at 7:02 pm
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Thanks for the story Julie. I'm sure it touched a nerve in thousand of homes.


It seemed an obvious call to me. There's no way the side streets were passable. I was driving from the SFC to Urbana Meijer at 11. No side streets were plowed. None.


From Meijer back to middle Urbana at midnight, still no side streets plowed and no snowplows on the road. There was still snow coming down, and lots of wind. (I shoveled the driveway four times yesterday, too.)


Our street wasn't cleared 'til morning (at which point I dug us out from the snow wall left behind by the plow).


Living with a teacher, I can confidently say that the stress was painful. If there was going to be school, there'd be a ton of extra contingency planning. 

Owen, Wiegand. Your grade for the day is an F. But I know you can do better! (Remember to show your work,)

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on February 05, 2014 at 7:02 pm
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Like most stressful situations, it's better to have the information. Tell us when the decision will come, and what factors are involved.


For the parents, finding child care for the day is slightly easier at 11 p.m. than it is at 6:30 a.m.


If nothing else, you get a seven-and-a-half-hour head start.