How Are School Closings Decided?

Monday, December 15th 2008, 6:40 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Public Schools cancelled classes on Monday and has closed school for Tuesday as well.

Tulsa Public Schools started checking streets at 3 a.m. Monday and found some ice which wasn't so bad the buses couldn't get through, but that's not all that's considered when it comes to the weather.

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Ottway Burkhalter helps make the decision on whether to close Tulsa Public Schools because of weather. He says the decision for Monday came down to a combination of ice and wind.

"The temperature being 14 degrees and the wind chill 7, we had to consider kids standing at the bus stop waiting on transportation," said Burkhalter.

Icy streets and the wind chill are the main factors in the decision to close school for the day.

Tulsa tries to make the decision by 5:30 a.m., after talking with Owasso, Bixby, Jenks, Glenpool, Union and Sand Springs.

"It would be rough if everybody closed and one guy stays open and something goes wrong," said Burkhalter.

Besides the issue of the icy streets Monday morning the other consideration was having students stand outside in the cold, especially if they had to wait outside at the stop and the bus was late.

Even the grown-ups waiting for city buses downtown were miserable outside, and the 270 stops for Tulsa school buses have no protection from the wind.

School buses do have heaters and even on a frosty morning staff can have them all warmed up and ready to go.

Their weight makes them better than cars on the ice, but when school is open dispatchers constantly watch the progress of each bus and issue regular reminders for drivers to be careful.

"Especially on the slippery roads they have to be a lot more cautious about what's going on, because it doesn't take any time at all to go totally around," said Valerie Courchesne of TPS Customer Service.

Cold weather without precipitation usually is not enough to close school, but bitter cold and wind is enough.

It comes down to a judgment call, and TPS tells The News On 6 that decision will always be made on the side of caution.