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Closings come in record numbers


February 06, 2014
While hundreds of Metro Detroit districts close their doors after a few inches of snow, it's rare for the Grosse Pointe Public School System to join the shuttered.

A stretch of arctic air in late January closed the schools here three straight days, the first time ever for the district.

There are no buses in the Grosse Pointe schools, so one issue other districts face is eliminated.

"There are several of us who talk," said GPPSS Superintendent Tom Harwood, who has the final decision. "We look at the safety around our buildings, the streets and sidewalks. Our biggest consideration is safety of the students."

Last week, the bitter cold again cancelled classes on Tuesday, Jan. 28, when wind chills fell to 35 degrees below zero.

"At that point, safety was an issue," Harwood said.

While temperatures Wednesday, Jan. 29, started below zero, the wind was calmer and the high temperature for the day was set to rebound into the high teens.

Harwood sent a letter through the district's e-mail to registered parents and teachers.

"The Grosse Pointe Public School System will be open tomorrow, Wednesday, January 29th. It is projected that the temperature will be in in the single digits at the start of school and approaching double digits by noon. We encourage you to drive your children to school or carpool if possible. Students in the district who utilize transportation to special education programs will be contacted by our transportation provider if the bus will be delayed or unable to transport due to weather conditions. There will be no recess activities.

"While it is still cold, we feel it is safe to have children return to attend classes and get back to the business of teaching and learning. Parents/guardians always have the right to keep their children at home if they do not believe they should go to school because of weather conditions. However, we ask that you call the school's attendance line to report the reason for the absence, so we know your child is safe."

In the letter, Harwood went on to explain the decision is made after communication with the manager of buildings and grounds and the deputy superintendent.

"We do our best to communicate this to you in a timely manner through local radio and TV, our websites, phone fan-outs and social media. We have also added childcare options on snow days as a service to our families," Harwood wrote.

The cold weather forced the closing of all area schools Jan. 28, including classes at the University of Michigan for the first time since 1978.

"It's been a tough January," Harwood said. "Four days in two weeks, I've never seen anything like that here."

Harwood said the district is allowed six snow/cold days before the school calendar is affected.

"We can adjust the day by a few minutes to make up for the lost time," Harwood said.

The state mandates 170 days of instruction with 1,098 instructional hours. Gov. Rick Snyder is allowed to change that number to accommodate the record-setting winter.

"Maybe February will be better," Harwood said.

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