How do schools decide when to cancel classes due to weather? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

How do schools decide when to cancel classes due to weather?

FOX 28 has brought you answers to your questions about school closings whenever winter weather strikes. Here's a reminder of some information on why schools decide to close, or stay open, when the weather gets bad.

Previously posted on

When the snow starts to fall and the temperatures begin to plunge, school districts have a decision to make. That decision is whether to cancel school.

While student love the idea of a snow day, it takes a lot before that'll happen in Northern Indiana.

"It's always a judgment call," said Elkhart Community Schools Support Services Executive Director Doug Hasler. 

Both Hasler and South Bend School Corporation Superintendent James Kapsa look at various elements of the day's weather forecast.

"We're looking to determine whether or not roads are passable.  Whether or not temperatures are so cold it's not safe for kids to be out walking to school," said Hasler.

"We're always checking to see if the heat is on.  Look at the ice and you worry about lines falling and no electricity," said Kapsa.

Indiana schools must be in session for 180 days.  South Bend students will have to make up a snow day at the end of the year.  But in Elkhart, snow days are built into the schedule.  Hasler and Kapsa say they'll check out the road conditions and temperatures for themselves before making a decision that can change a family's entire schedule. 

"Our clientele, it puts them at a disadvantage trying to find daycare.  What happens to those kids when they're at home?" asked Kapsa.

Ideally, Kapsa and Hasler say they'd like to make a decision by 6 AM.  Either way, Spencer will make time to play outside.

"I like to make snow angels and stuff with snow," said Spencer.

Kapsa and Hasler are asking you to help out their students by clearing off your sidewalk.

FOX 28 previously spoke with superintendents from the Goshen, Penn-Harris-Madison and Niles school districts to see what their procedure are. All follow roughly the same rules when snow and cold temperatures hit.

PHM Superintendent Jerry Thacker said, "The protocol includes looking at visibility, amount of snow, weather conditions that are forecast and predicted."

Roads are a top priority and are surveyed by employees in the district.

Thacker said, "A number of our administrators start looking at the primary and secondary roads early because we have 140 square miles."

Goshen Superintendent Bruce Stahly said, "We go out in our corporation... we have one person who goes out and actually drives the roads. He knows where the worst conditions are."

These districts also keep in close contact with the city and county road crews.

Niles Superintendent Douglas Law asks "When are they going to put the trucks on? How long they've had the trucks on and what they think is going to happen?"

With many kids waiting for buses or walking, temperatures are also important.

Stahly told us, "Obviously if it gets down to -20 degree with the wind chill factor, we'll seriously consider canceling school."

No matter what the superintendents decided, all three say the parents have the final say.

Law says, "If we're in school and they don't think it's safe enough for the kids to come to school, don't bring your kids."

Also, districts communicate with neighboring districts to get an idea of what they plan to do.

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