How do schools determine snow days?

Several parents questioned the decision to have classes Monday even with the frigid temperatures outside.

Many districts were closed Friday because of record low temperatures, but Monday, even though temperatures were close to the same, only a few school districts closed.

Several parents questioned the decision to have classes Monday even with the frigid temperatures outside.

Paul Soma, the Traverse City Area Public Schools Associate Superintendent of Finance and Operations, said there were a lot of differences between Friday morning and Monday morning.

Soma is one of the main people who decides whether to delay or cancel school.

He said when the conditions are questionable, a team drives around the area checking on the roads, weather and temperature. While Monday morning's temperatures were around -17 degrees, Soma said the district knew it was supposed to warm up and that road conditions were safe.

"We can have days that start very, very cold," Soma said. "But, they're clear, sunny and road conditions are fine. And then they warm throughout the day. We won't cancel school on a day like that and that's the day we had today (Monday)."

Besides determining the number of snow days a school is allowed, the State of Michigan has no say when a school can call a snow day. TCAPS officials have said, however, it would make it easier if they received some guidelines from the State.

"I mean you might be able to find a superintendent who'd say, 'okay if the temperature falls to this level or if this much snow has fallen or whatever, this is the way you proceed,'" said Safe School Consultant for the Department of Education, Bob Higgins. "The school calendar has always been a local decision."

Petoskey Public Schools has similar guidelines to Traverse City when it comes to deciding whether or not to cancel school. Superintendent John Scholten agrees with Soma and says having some state guidelines might be helpful.

"It probably would be helpful to be more consistent if there was a standard but I'm not sure if the state or all of us would agree on what that standard should be," said Scholten.

TCAPS leaders said it's also been a hard year for heating and snow removal costs at schools. Because of the extreme conditions, Soma estimates the district's utility bills this year will be more than $200,000, and that they might need to make some budget adjustments.