Delicate process behind canceling classes for snow
December 14, 2009 —
Last Tuesday evening James Muladore, vice president of administration and business affairs, was keeping an eye on the Weather Channel.
A storm was heading toward the Tri-Cities and due to arrive that evening.
Fast forward to the next morning, as Muladore heads toward the University campus, taking the back roads as he usually does, just to see how bad the weather is. He arrives by 4:30 a.m. and begins consulting with the groundskeepers and various staff who live around the Tri- Cities to compare against the Weather Channel’s reports.
As time progresses, he watches the news feed of other local schools closing. Soon, he realizes the roads are not going to be safe enough to keep the campus open, at least until the afternoon when the municipalities have had time to send out their road crews. By 6 a.m., he has made his decision to close the campus until noon.
So goes the normal process for determining whether to keep the school open in adverse weather. Students don’t always agree with the decision. Sometimes the campus stays open when weather is questionable. Such decisions are not lightly made.
“What people don’t always understand,” Muladore explains, “is that we don’t determine snow days the same way a K–12 school does. Most businesses stay open regardless of weather. You don’t see banks closing down because the roads are bad.”
Plus, Muladore says, other factors need to be taken into account. As much as students enjoy the occasional day off, frequent snow days can set a class back, especially the ones that only meet once a week. Students are paying for their classes, and Muladore says that when they’re canceled, students are the ones who suffer.
But Muladore also has to weigh those costs against the safety of the students.
“Many students who live off campus take the back roads to get to school. I take the back roads deliberately so I can get an idea of what to expect from the weather,” he said.
Given weather’s unpredictability, it isn’t always easy to determine if the weather warrants a snow day. A snow day can’t always be called if weather is bad in some areas but not others.
“That’s a decision that individual students and staff have to make,” Muladore says. “If the roads aren’t bad in Saginaw or Bay City, but routes out to Midland are rough, we can’t justify closing the whole campus.”