By John Shumway


Follow KDKA-TV: Facebook | Twitter

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Most area children will be out of class tomorrow because of bitterly cold temperatures, but what goes in to that decision – to close because of the cold?

It is not a decision made lightly. A number of area schools, including the Pittsburgh Public Schools, will be closed on Wednesday. A lot of school districts take into consideration the discomfort and safety of the children. They also cancel extra-curricular activities.

The students filed out of the Bethel Park schools on Tuesday heading for their buses knowing they won’t be back Wednesday and Thursday is doubtful as well.

Bethel Park spokesperson Vicki Flotta says, “Of all the decisions we make, I don’t think we get hammered for raising taxes as much as we get hammered for closing school due to weather.”

But when it comes to temperatures that are riding into town on the Polar Vortex, Flotta says the South Hills school district doesn’t mess around.

“When they issue a wind chill advisory or a wind chill warning for us, that would automatically trigger a school closing day,” she said.

That is exactly what happened Tuesday afternoon. The National Weather Service issued a Wind Chill Advisory through Thursday afternoon.

While each school district makes its own decision about delaying or closing, Dr. Linda Hippert, a professor at Point Park University and a former superintendent who made these decisions for many years, said ultimately the decisions come down to, “the safety of the children.”

Hippert says while there is no hard guideline, a few years back the schools did come up with a general consensus.

“For the most part its whenever the wind-chill is at 10-below or close to that, that’s a time when you are either going to delay depending on what’s going to happen later on in the day or you may have to cancel,” Hippert said.

Most schools have something about their cancelation policy on their website but are vague on the criteria for making the decision. That is not the case with North Allegheny. If there is a wind chill advisory and wind chill forecast are down to minus-20, it’s an automatic 2-hour delay. A wind chill warning and temps lower minus-20 and schools are canceled.

Steel Valley has already decided to close for Wednesday and Thursday, while other school are holding off on the Thursday decision.

“You like to give parents enough notice because certainly child care is an issue but on the other hand if you don’t have to cancel school you don’t want to,” Hippert said.

The decision at the area colleges and universities is different.

Universities rarely close because the students live on campus and employees are needed to feed and house them. So they might cancel classes but not the school. Even calling off classes is unusual because unlike school kids who have to wait for a bus, college students are only exposed to the elements for a few minutes going from building to building. That said, if the weather is deemed dangerous, the universities will cancel classes and encourage students to minimize their outdoors exposure.