Cold weather delays local schools’ return from Christmas break

Thousands of local students are scheduled to return from Christmas break this week, but frigid temperatures sidelined several districts Tuesday, and the rest of the week may hold more closures in store.

Tuesday morning’s low temperature of minus-13 was an all-time low for Jan. 2 in Dayton. Only a handful of public school districts were scheduled to go back Tuesday, and all of them, including Trotwood-Madison, Bellbrook and Milton-Union, canceled classes for the day.

RELATED: Multiple ways to see our school closings list

“That was just way too cold for our students to be standing outside waiting for the buses,” said Mad River school Superintendent Chad Wyen, who canceled school the night before.

Today is the biggest back-to-school day in the area, with about 20 districts, including Beavercreek, Northmont, Springboro and Troy, slated to get back to work after holiday breaks ranging from seven to 12 school days.

The WHIO forecast calls for morning low temperatures well below normal — near zero today, in the single digits Thursday, and a few degrees below zero on Friday. Wind chill values are expected to be below zero each day.

RELATED: Top 10 school stories from a wild year in education

Superintendents generally don’t have an absolute rule about closing school below a certain temperature because differences in wind and district layout come into play, as well as road safety for teen drivers.

“Usually if the wind chill is 20-below — and that’s not hard and fast — but when it gets to be that cold, there’s consideration for students waiting at bus stops,” said Bellbrook interim Superintendent Jeff Lewis, who said he anticipates a school delay today. “The other issue is cars starting. Our transportation department said (early Tuesday) they were having problems with 10 or 12 buses.”

Wyen said Mad River’s rule of thumb is that if the air temperature is below zero and the wind chill is minus-10, the district will typically start with a delay, with an eye on whether temperatures are expected to climb.

FORECAST: Bone-chilling cold to continue this week

“Parents see it differently. Some think that the kids should be here at 20 below, and some think if it’s 20 degrees, it’s too cold,” Lewis said, adding that student safety is his first guiding principle. “I remind parents — when we feel it’s safe, if they don’t think so, they have the last say. If parents feel the conditions are too bad, they’re more than welcome to keep their children home on those days.”

Ohio schools formerly were required to make up school days if they closed for more than five days. Now each school must be open for a minimum number of hours of instruction (910 for elementary, 1,001 for grades 7-12). Most local schools could now miss more than five days without having to schedule makeup time.

But early January snow days can create high school schedule havoc, as some districts finish the second quarter in mid-January, meaning exams are scheduled next week.

RELATED: Ohio may change how teachers are evaluated

Some local schools are less worried about this week’s weather. Centerville, Kettering and Huber Heights are among the half-dozen districts that don’t start school until next Monday or Tuesday, along with Carroll High School and the DECA charter school.

For those who do go back this week, teenagers who already spend a lot of time on social media may wake up to text messages or app notifications saying their school is closed.

It’s become a game at some schools, as high school students tweet their hopes for school to be closed, tagging the district’s superintendent. In Kettering, someone created a Twitter account named Is Fairmont Closed?, with the bio line of “Please Scott, we need a snow day,” referring to Superintendent Scott Inskeep.

Staff writer Lauren Clark contributed to this story.

About the Author