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.