OKC Schools discuss make-up days, if needed
Oklahoma City schools are quiet Wednesday. Halls and classrooms are empty of students.It's the seventh time school was canceled for weather this year, which means the district is out of built-in snow days.
Check the latest school closings here
"Safety is our top issue," said James Buchanan Elementary School Principal Scott Kaufman.
He says it's worth it to cancel school, despite the disruption, because the bitter cold puts kids in danger.
"We have several students who walk to school. So their walk could be 15 to 20 minutes long," he said.
Buchanan, like the rest of the district, has around 90 percent of kids on free or reduced lunch. In order to qualify, their families must live below the poverty line.
"They don't have gloves, they don't have hats. Sometimes they wear shorts," said 2nd grade teacher Kathy Buttry about her students, "I think it's really sad and it's kind of scary."
The school has a clothing closet with extra clothes for kids who need them. But it's currently filled with only 10 coats. With 550 kids enrolled, that's simply not enough, Kaufman says.
"They've taken a lot of school days, but for children to stand out there in that wind I don't have a problem with it," said Delois Webb.
Parents and grandparents like Webb are mixed. On the Fox 25 Facebook Page many say safety is of the utmost importance. Others call the cold weather policy ridiculous. And some say they walked as a kid and never even "came close" to frost bite.
Now, with more frigid temperatures in the forecast, the question is what to do next.
"We hope we don't have to cancel another day of school," said school board member Phil Horning, "but if we do, we will have to make it up."
Horning says they could add school days to Spring Break or tack them on to the end of the school year. The Administration and Teachers' Union will make a recommendation, then the Board will decide how to act.
The made-up school days are sacrifices people with the district say are the better choice, as an exceptionally cold winter continues to clutch the Sooner State.
"Even one child being in danger of frost bite is not worth it," Kaufman said.
OkCPS spokesperson Tierney Tinnin issued this statement on the school district's decision to close for cold weather:
"Changes to the district's official calendar must be approved by the OKCPS board of education. In the event that additional inclement weather make-up days are required, the district's leadership team will work with union employee groups to develop a plan that the interim superintendent will present to the board for a vote. The plan will be developed to meet the educational needs of our students and when approved will be communicated to parents, students and staff."
The district has not decided if classes will be held on Thursday, though temperatures are forecasted in the teens with strong winds out of the north. Fox 25 Chief Meteorologist Jeff George says the wind chills will feel like zero degrees. In January, the district said it will close the school if the actual temperature is 10 degrees or below or if the wind chill is 5 degrees or below.
The district will continue with its scheduled parent-teacher conference day on Friday, which means students may not return to class until next Monday.