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Published: Monday, 12/13/2010

Heavy snow closes Toledo area schools

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

UPDATE: Huron County issued a Level 2 weather advisory on Monday morning, while Hancock, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, and Wood counties were under a Level 1 advisory.

Those advisories, issued by the respective county sheriff's office, address snow-covered and icy roadways and urge motorists to avoid travel or drive with caution.

For a list of school delays and closings, CLICK HERE:

School delays and closures Dec. 13, 2010

Frieda the Falcon, one of Bowling Green State University's mascots, squares off with Logan McGuire, 9, of Perrysburg in a snowball fight outside of Anderson Arena. Frieda the Falcon, one of Bowling Green State University's mascots, squares off with Logan McGuire, 9, of Perrysburg in a snowball fight outside of Anderson Arena.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Just as more students are walking to school because of budget cuts, Toledo Public Schools became the lone holdout among larger districts in this year's first snow event, keeping schools open Monday and not delaying the start of class.

Other school districts cited blowing snow and treacherous driving conditions for delays and cancellations. But the TPS chain of command, starting early Monday morning, decided the roads were clear enough to hold class, said TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko.

TPS officials were fielding concerned and angry calls from parents Monday morning, he said. Monday morning they did not know yet how many students were absent.

“We put people out really early in the morning. The snowfall had ended late at night, and we were out clearing snow. The buildings and the parking lots were clean. We check to see if there are any emergencies issued by sheriff's departments,” Mr. Pecko said. “Most of the roads, though snow-covered, were navigable, and we made a decision. We tried to make that decision by 5 a.m.”

Snow breaks through the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis. No one at the stadium was hurt Sunday, but the Vikings' Monday night game against the New York Giants will be moved to Ford Field in Detroit. Snow breaks through the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis. No one at the stadium was hurt Sunday, but the Vikings' Monday night game against the New York Giants will be moved to Ford Field in Detroit.
ANN HEISENFELT / AP Enlarge

This is also the first year the state is under a new system of fewer snow days built into the school calendar, so some school administrations are more stingy about canceling class. They could, however, delay school without burning a day. Gov. Ted Strickland re-jiggered the school year, adding two more instructional days by reducing the number of snow or “calamity” days from five to three. This is the first year under the new system.

Toledo Board of Education President Bob Vasquez said that the roads appear clear and that the superintendent made the correct decision.

“I'm looking outside my window, and the roads look clear,” he said Monday morning from his Toledo office. “I think everybody is aware that the state has cut down on the number of calamity days, from five to three. What happens is the kids go later in the year, which is OK because we don't want to do anything to threaten the safety of children.”

Mr. Vasquez said traditionally “it seems like Toledo is always the last to close.” He said wind and blowing snow can be more of a problem for suburban schools because the landscapes are geographically more open.

The Toledo school board this year decided to extend walking zones from one to two miles and to cancel bus service for high school students to save money to help close a $39 million budget deficit. That decision affected about 5,000 students.

Mr. Vasquez said the decision to cut bus service was all the more difficult because board members knew winter days would be tougher for some students.

“We just don't have the money,” he said.

Most of the area's schoolchildren awoke to the possibility of a delayed start to their day, only to learn that they would be given a day off of school when districts canceled classes because of the snow and cold.

Sylvania Schools called off lessons after an initial delay “due to the blowing and drifting snow in the outlying areas, because the superintendent and the transportation director determined it just wasn't getting better in those areas,” said district spokesperson Nancy Crandell. The school board meeting scheduled Monday evening will not be canceled.

In Monroe, school officials worried that rural roads were too slick for bus traffic, said Bobb Vergiels, coordinator of communications and public relations for Monroe Public Schools.

"Remember, even though our administrative headquarters is in the city, we have a lot of kids in the rural areas and a whole lot of rural roads out there," Mr. Vergiels said. "South of town you had to go significantly slower. What we have to be concerned with are the roads out in the country."

A powerful, gusty storm dumped mounds of snow across the upper Midwest Sunday, closing major highways in several states, canceling more than 1,600 flights in Chicago, and collapsing the roof of the Minnesota Vikings' stadium.

At least six weather-related deaths were reported as the storm system dropped nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and marched east.

A blizzard warning had been in effect for parts of eastern Iowa, southeastern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and northern Michigan, according to the National Weather Service.

Surrounding areas, including Chicago, were under winter storm warnings. Much of Iowa was under a wind chill advisory.

In Minneapolis, heavy snow left the Metrodome unready for football.



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