Cold days

March 18, 2019

Winter in Omaha has carried midway through March, forcing OPS to use six snow days. Including Cheryl Logan, the OPS superintendent, a team of six people decides whether to call school off due to weather conditions. Snow days are not counted by the day in Nebraska, they are counted by the hour. “We have excess hours in our academic calendar,” Logan states, “The rumor about snow days is just that. We have ample hours left in our bank.” 


In the process of calling snow days, a variety of consultants are addressed in order to make the safest, most appropriate call. The decision-making team begins meeting several days before the weather event occurs. Information from Offutt Air Force Base and the National Weather Service is also obtained by the group to consider all perspectives on the situation. “I happen to be a weather buff, so I also watch dew points and winds,” Logan assures, “These are very good predictors of how low or how high a temperature will be, also whether or not we will have melting.” 


Cold days are called when there is a wind chill warning; school is not cancelled when there is only a wind chill advisory. Of this year’s winter, there have been 30 days where there was a wind chill advisory, but OPS could not cancel 30 days of school because that certainly would exceed the limit of hours allowed to be missed. To decide whether the roads are too icy or not, the team drives on the roads firsthand to check for safety. Logan spoke of the team’s morning decisions, addressing, “We, however, are in cars and make the determination for the buses.” 


Other metro superintendents have minimal input into the team’s decision-making process. Logan does not wait for the decisions of the other superintendents to be made, but sometimes, they can make a joint decision. Since OPS is so large, it is necessary to make the decision as soon as possible so that students’ transportation can be alarmed. The district tells parents the decision as soon as possible after making the decision to cancel school. Logan discloses, “When the forecast is wobbly, we wait until the morning, or see if the weather materializes, or if the forecast tightens up.”  


Logan confirmed that students’ comments on Twitter do not have an impact on her decision to cancel school. By the time most of the comments have been made, the decision to cancel or not to cancel- has been made. In addition to the forecast, team members’ opinions, and outside consultants, safety is largely impactful in the decision-making process. Logan informs, “I have the last word, but honestly it is a team effort. We get everyone’s opinion at the end of a call and then make a decision.” 


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