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Fort Wayne leadership to monitor frigid temps as Allen County's public schools close

Friday, January 24, 2014 - 7:49 am

Frigid temperatures and wind chills are expected to plague the area over the next few days, with Fort Wayne's school districts already being impacted with closures and delays and city leadership pledging to monitor the situation in order to determine if warming centers are needed.

Fort Wayne Community Schools, Southwest Allen County Schools, East Allen County Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools all started Friday morning on two-hour delays, as temperatures in Fort Wayne were around -7 degrees, with a wind chill of -26, at 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

FWCS announced its closure for Friday's classes around 7:20 a.m., its second this week, followed shortly thereafter by SACS and NACS, with EACS announcing its closure last.

On Thursday, City of Fort Wayne spokesman John Perlich said the city's leadership team was monitoring the weather conditions -- temperatures were forecast to hit a high of 0 degrees on Tuesday -- and that, if deemed necessary, the city would consider opening warming centers that were last in operation on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, when the worst of the so-called "Polar Vortex" dumped inches of snow and dropped temperatures into negative readings.

FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said Thursday -- when the district had a two-hour delay -- that making the call to delay or close due to frigid temperatures, not impassable roads due to heavy snowfall, is one of the most difficult for the district.

"It's tough for us to make that decision," Stockman said, explaining that the district is aware that parents tend to let public schools take the lead on the issue, but that sometimes, it will have to be an individual choice.

"Then it takes the burden off the parent; we can take that burden for holding class or cancelling," Stockman said. "On a day like (Thursday), parents are ultimately going to have to make that choice for their children," based on factors like how far their children have to walk to school or how long adults are willing to let their children wait for a school bus to pick them up.

"Again, that parent has to look at it and make that decision," Stockman said. "If you feel that it's not safe, then you have the right to keep your child home."

Stockman said the district has always had a threshold of 20-below for wind chill to consider closures, but that number isn't set in stone.

"When you're talking about 20-below (wind chills), are we talking about sustained winds, or are we talking about gusts?" Stockman said. "With the roads being clearer, there's an expectation that we are going to be in session. But we always put the safety of students first."