Frigid weather closes hundreds of schools

Ryan Haidet

Excitement likely filled many children on Sunday — not from the Super Bowl, but from the news that school was canceled.

The extremely cold temperatures with wind chills well below zero caused hundreds of Northeastern Ohio schools to close today and yesterday.

According to by 11 p.m. on Sunday, 613 closings were listed.

Joe Giancola, assistant superintendent of Kent City Schools, which closed today and yesterday, said the safety of students was the deciding factor.

“First consideration is the danger of bringing them in,” Giancola said.

He said factors considered are icy roads making travel difficult or extremely cold temperatures for students who walk or wait outside for the bus.

J.C. Benton, press secretary for the State Department of Education, said there is no set temperature at which a school must close.

“It’s all determined locally,” Benton said. “They (school district officials) use their sound judgment.”

Giancola said superintendents often collaborate with other school districts when deciding to close because some students meet at other schools for certain programs. Having one closed and another open may be a problem.

“We consult with other districts in the county and adjacent counties to see what they are doing because sometimes we’re tied in,” Giancola said.

He said the only cost of closing the school is the opportunity cost of education lost. If too many days are canceled, there could be another cost — changing the school schedule.

“This is our first calamity day of the year,” Giancola said. “You’re allowed five without changing the school schedules.”

These days off, although good news for some, may cause problems for students who will have to stay at home alone.

“Schools are very student-focused and the well-being and safety of students will always override or overrule any other factors such as parents having to arrange for daycare,” Giancola said. “We have to go with the student body as a whole.”

C.J. Couch, chief of public affairs with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, said it’s a concern when children are outside when it’s so cold.

“You look at the kids who are standing outside waiting for the buses,” Couch said. “Just that short period of time, they are exposed to those conditions. Whatever we can do to limit anyone’s exposure is really important.”

He said it was a good decision that so many schools closed.

“I certainly applaud the superintendents and those who made that decision,” Couch said.

If one must go outdoors in low temperatures, it’s recommended to dress for the weather.

“Obviously wearing layers with the smallest amount of skin exposed as possible is important,” Couch said. “A lot of times people are putting on coats and gloves, but their ears are still exposed. They (some students) don’t want to wear hats because it doesn’t look cool or something. Completely wrapping the ears, face, hands, covering their heads with some type of protective covering. Wearing layers of covering is very important.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests more than wearing layers — diet is also important during this weather.

“Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer,” the CDC Web site reported. “Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages — they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature.”

For more on winter weather safety, visit

Contact public affairs reporter Ryan Haidet at [email protected].