This time, Columbia doesn't close schools for subzero wind chill

Thursday, January 23, 2014 | 6:58 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Although temperatures were forecast for a high of 10 degrees Thursday, students in Columbia Public Schools still had class.

Several factors were considered in deciding whether schools would close, including temperature, wind chill, precipitation, safety and whether buses would start, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said. Because weather could be unpredictable, she said, it was hard to have a strict policy on weather-related school closings.

"There's no magic number," Baumstark said.

Earlier this month, the district canceled classes for two days because of the cold. The low temperature on Jan. 6 and 7 was 11 degrees below zero without the wind chill. The high temperature on Jan. 6 was zero, and the high the next day was 34, according to the National Weather Service. Baumstark said that wind chill had been expected to be significantly below zero degrees on those two days.

Additionally, the district was coming off a two-week break at that time and was not confident it could provide safe bus transportation, she said. School buses had not been used in some time, and there were concerns about getting them running.

Those factors were not present Thursday. Temperatures were above zero without the wind chill, and the district thought it could get the buses running and provide safe transportation. 

Both a wind-chill advisory and a hazardous-weather outlook were issued for Boone County by the National Weather Service for Thursday. The temperature was forecast to reach 10 degrees with a wind chill of 10 degrees below zero.

The decision of whether to cancel classes was made by a team of individuals within the district. The process started Tuesday, with members of the team looking at weather forecasts and consulting safety officers in the community and surrounding school districts.

Sixteen surrounding districts were consulted regarding whether to close Thursday, Baumstark said. Blackwater R-II schools and Marshall schools were closed Thursday. Several other area school districts had late starts.

Baumstark said that she had not received much feedback from parents regarding the schools' being open and that it was up to parents to decide whether they thought it was safe to send their children to school in the cold. Absences would be excused if parents called and excused their children, giving the reason for the absence.

There were no issues in the schools or with buses Thursday that Baumstark knew of, but she said that it would certainly be a day for indoor recess.

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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Mark Foecking January 24, 2014 | 5:30 a.m.

I haven't gone back to check, but it's my impression that schools are far more likely to close on a Monday or Friday than during any other weekday. Anyone else notice that?


(Report Comment)
Frances Webber January 24, 2014 | 4:39 p.m.

Hi, I'm Fran Webber, the reporter on this story. I spoke with Michelle Baumstark Friday, and she said the day of the week was not a factor the district takes into consideration when it decides whether to have school. Thank you for raising that question.

(Report Comment)

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