The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 23, 2014

OKC schools change weather cancellation policy

From The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City Public Schools officials say they have changed their weather cancellation policy to include extreme low temperatures.

Interim Oklahoma City Superintendent Dave Lopez announced at a Tuesday board meeting that he will decide by 5:25 a.m. on days when extreme cold is expected whether to cancel school. The move will be made if the temperature is 10 degrees or below, or if the wind chill is 5 degrees or below.

Earlier this month, Lopez apologized after he waited until 6:30 a.m. on a bitterly cold morning to cancel classes for the district's 46,000 students, leaving some parents scrambling to figure out childcare for the day. Lopez said his top priority was the safety of students, many of whom walk to school or have to wait for a bus.

Rod McKinley, the district's chief human resources officer, will recommend to Lopez whether school should be cancelled by 5:15 a.m. Lopez will notify parents and the media by 5:25 a.m. if schools will be closed.

"We had really good procedures for closing due to snow and ice, but nothing that discussed severe temperatures," McKinley said. "This is just to be a little bit more proactive. It gives us a chance to be more alert."

When officials checked weather forecasts the night of Jan. 5, the projected temperatures for the morning were 10 to 11 degrees, McKinley said. The next morning, officials were caught off-guard by the chill.

"It was the right decision, it just wasn't timely enough," he said. "If we're going to make that decision we're going to make it earlier. I'm not going to have that situation come up again."

The policy change will also include extreme high temperatures of 110 degrees or more.

"It is absolutely just as dangerous to transport kids in heat as it is in cold," school board member Jay Means said.