Cold forecast closes Oklahoma schools

BY MEGAN ROLLAND and JESSE OLIVAREZ Modified: January 7, 2010 at 5:06 am •  Published: January 7, 2010

Oklahoma City Public Schools have been closed for the rest of the week because of subfreezing temperatures, district officials announced Wednesday.

Superintendent Karl Springer said in a news release that closing the schools was a difficult decision to make but that many of the district’s students walk as far as two miles to get to school.

"In this type of weather that is a life-threatening trip that we don’t want our students to have to make,” Springer said.

Almost 30,000 students are ineligible to ride the bus because they live within a mile and a half of their schools, while about 11,000 students ride the bus in the urban district.

Tulsa Public Schools also announced Wednesday that they will close; however, suburban schools in the Oklahoma City area reported they likely wouldremain open.

Meteorologist Patrick Burke with the National Weather Service in Norman said the state hasn’t seen wind chill temperatures like this since 1996. The Oklahoman reported in January 1996 that more than 100 schools were canceled because of wind chills that remained 30 degrees below zero for several hours. Only a half inch of snow fell.

A wind chill advisory was announced for the Oklahoma City area from 6 p.m. Wednesday through 6 p.m. Friday, Burke said. Such an advisory is issued when the wind chill will be between minus 5 degrees and minus 20 degrees.

"That’s when it starts to be dangerous if people are exposed to this wind chill,” Burke said. "Exposed skin can get frostbite in under 30 minutes.”

Unless the storm drops a large amount of ice on the area, Edmond school officials said their schools will be open today.

Associate Superintendent Bret Towne said members of the district administration will begin driving bus routes at 4 a.m. and report the road conditions to Superintendent David Goin. Should Goin decide to cancel classes, the district’s messaging system will call parents to let them know. Know it: Surviving winter



Closings


Oklahoma City Public Schools and all sporting events are canceled today and Friday with the exception of varsity wrestling and basketball tournaments.


Tulsa Public Schools are closed today and Friday.


Deer Creek, Edmond, Moore, Midwest City-Del City, Putnam City, Yukon, Moore, Choctaw-Nicoma Park and Lawton schools will be open.


Beggs Schools are closed today. Superintendent Cindy Swearingen said she would decide today whether to open schools Friday.


• Officials from both Edmond and Putnam City schools said bus drivers will come in a few minutes earlier than usual to warm up buses.


Putnam City Schools will ease their restrictions on the amount of time that drivers will let their buses idle. Normally, the district’s bus drivers turn off their engines after idling for two minutes. With colder-than-normal temperatures, the district has instructed drivers that they can leave their buses idling for up to five minutes. The idling restrictions were put in place a few years ago when fuel prices rose to record highs, district spokesman Steve Lindley said.


Choctaw-Nicoma Park Superintendent Jim McCharen said, "We understand it’s going to be bitterly cold the next few days, but a majority of our kids ride the buses or have other means of transportation to school. We just don’t have that many kids that have to walk to school.”


Midwest City-Del City Superintendent Bill Scoggan has told district principals to open schools earlier than usual so no children will have to stand outside and wait in the cold, said Stacey Boyer, the district’s spokeswoman.

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