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APS officials discuss weather-related closures

1/30/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

How cold was it? It was cold enough Jan. 27 and 28 for the Akron Public Schools (APS) to cancel school in advance for those two days.

The APS Board of Education met Jan. 27 even though school was canceled that day due to the severe cold. Students and teachers stayed home, but administrators went to work and to a short school board meeting that night.

Jan. 28 was even colder, with the temperature not expected to rise much above 0 degree F and a wind chill factor well below zero.

According to district officials, Ohio law allows school districts to close school a maximum of five instructional days a year because of inclement weather. After five days, a district must make up missed instructional days.

APS Superintendent David James said Jan. 27 was the district’s fifth “calamity” or snow day this year, and Jan. 28 was its sixth. The district also canceled school Jan. 29.

“The safety of our students is our No. 1 priority,” James said, adding it was just too cold to let children walk to school or stand outside waiting for a bus. Many APS students walk or ride a bus to school, he said.

He said that earlier Jan. 27, Gov. John Kasich had called on the Ohio General Assembly to draft legislation that would increase the number of allowable calamity days for Ohio schools just for 2014, since the winter has been unusually cold this year and many school districts have already used up their quota of snow days.

James said he cancels school in advance if possible, but the weather can change quickly, and sometimes the decision isn’t made until early in the morning on a school day.

Once the decision is made, district officials make several efforts to inform parents of the closure, he said. They notify the local news media, James said, and post a notice on the district’s website. They also call parents via robo-calls either the night before or the morning of the closure, he said.

School board member Patrick Bravo commended James for his job in making this “never-popular decision” and said, “I know you’re thinking of our students when you make this decision.”

Board President Lisa Mansfield added the decision to close is not made lightly, that staff members watch the forecast for days in advance.

“There’s a lot of planning and considering done,” she said, and then the district tries to let parents know ahead of time.

She said she has seen a good deal of criticism on social media when the district closes the schools and reminded people that it’s for the safety of Akron’s children.

“Try to walk in other people’s shoes,” she advised, and be less disagreeable on social media sites, she added.

The school board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, located at 70 N. Broadway St. in Downtown Akron.

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