Cold cancels classes across region


First Posted: 1/6/2014

LIMA — Below zero temperatures and wind chills reaching a negative 45 degrees Fahrenheit coupled with constant blowing and drifting snow onto roadways prompted area school and university officials to delay the resumption of classes after the recent holiday break.

Rhodes State College, Ohio State University-Lima officials and area school district superintendents announced Sunday evening they would be closed Monday, with Bluffton University officials announcing Sunday the campus would be closed Monday and Tuesday.

Many area school district officials said they intended to make a decision by late Monday regarding canceling classes Tuesday. By early afternoon both Lima Central Catholic and St. Charles schools had said they will close Tuesday.

Rhodes State College President Dr. Debra McCurdy said Monday afternoon their decision regarding a possible closure Tuesday depended on the same factors — temperature and wind chill, which are expected to continue to be sub-zero until an Arctic low pressure system moves out of the area — that prompted Monday’s closing.

“All of our students are commuters and many of them are coming in from rural counties so that is part of our determination,” McCurdy said. “It is not just our students we are considering, but so many of our faculty and staff come in from the smaller communities.”

Cancellation of Monday’s classes was made at about 6 p.m. Sunday. McCurdy said the decision was based on wind and snow and icy roadways, “I think it is just a good precaution.”

With Monday being the first scheduled day of second semester classes, McCurdy said “the faculty will determine how the students will make up the time since the students are required to have so many hours..”

Bluffton University offices are expected to open at their normal times on Wednesday with classes for the spring semester scheduled to begin Thursday.

Public Relations Director Robin Bowlus said university officials also delayed when students could return to their dorms. They can start after 2 p.m. Wednesday when the temperature is expected to climb into the 20s and sustained winds are anticipated to decrease to about 15 mph.

“The extreme wind chills and cold temperatures coupled with the possibility of power outages, water issues and things of that nature prompted the decision,” Bowlus said. “Being a residential campus, we really need to be concerned with that and do what is in the best interest of the students.”

The campus has about 900 residential students, which comprises about 90 percent of the student body.

Students were scheduled to enter their dorms on Monday and begin classes on Tuesday. The loss of two days of classes will be discussed by university officials.

“The academic dean and the faculty may make a decision to make these days up but that has not been determined yet,” Bowlus said. “This includes all our undergraduate, graduate and adult classes here and including our sites in Piqua and Archbold.”

She said the last time the university canceled classes was during the January 2005 ice storm because downed power lines resulted in a loss of power to the campus and during the blizzard of 1978.

The University of Northwestern Ohio closed Monday and the University of Findlay closed on Monday and for today.

Across the region, a Thursday snowstorm interrupted the resumption of classes by at least one day for a few area school districts that had planned to resume classes on Jan. 2 after the holiday break.

The snowstorm extended the holiday break for them, and then frigid temperatures and wind chills ushered in on Sunday extended the break again for them as well as the remaining school districts as officials canceled classes Monday.

Many expected to make the decision for Tuesday by early Monday evening.

At 2:30 p.m., Shawnee Schools announced their closure following St. Marys and Findlay City schools. Other schools announcing early Monday they are closed Tuesday include Lima Central Catholic, St. Charles Catholic School, Delphos St. Johns, and Bath, Bluffton, Cory-Rawson, Delphos City, Elida, Liberty-Benton, Lima City, McComb and Wapakoneta City schools.

Area school districts crept nearer or matched the five-day state minimum with the recent inclement weather. Districts are allotted five calamity days before having to make up missed days. The current Ohio school year is set at 182 days.

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, districts can change to an hour-based schedule but they will no longer have calamity days. Schools will be required to have at least 1,001 hours for grades seven through 12 and 910 hours for the lower grades, including all-day kindergarten. Half-day kindergartners would have to be in school at least 455 hours each school year.

Schools can schedule “excess” hours above the minimum number. Hours missed above the minimum do not have to be made up. However, if a school closes enough that it will fall below the minimum number of hours, the school must extend its scheduled year.