Superintendents taking closing school seriously as winter storm continues

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – West Michigan superintendents have been busy making school closing decisions as the first winter storm of the season moves through the region.

Forest Hills Superintendent Dan Behm says initially some people questioned the decision to close Wednesday because roads were mostly clear in the morning.

“The weather forecasts were spot on,” Behm said. “Everyone in the morning might have been scratching their head ‘why aren’t schools open’ and by like noon or one o’clock, people are like ‘oh now I get it.’”

Behm says the decision is not taken lightly and is always focused on the safety of students, parents and staff.

“We gather information from a variety of data points. The National Weather Service, local meteorologists, the Kent County Road Commission, our own road observations,” Behm said.

The superintendent says closing also helps reduce traffic in unsafe conditions.

“People don’t realize that when we have a day of school that is in session, we’re putting thousands of more cars on local roadways,” Behm said.

A multi-vehicle crash on US-131 near Comstock Park Wednesday afternoon kept emergency crews busy for hours and backed up traffic for miles. Emergency crews and tow trucks have continued to remain busy responding to crashes and towing cars out of ditches.

The snow came after students would have been at school and would have made the return home difficult.

“The morning was pretty typical for our roadways here in Michigan but explaining that we had additional information from our meteorologists from the national weather service and our over-the-air TV stations, and the like they told us today was going to be a lot more treacherous as the day went on,” Behm said.

Technologies like Twitter and other district official social media sites allow superintendents to keep parents, students and staff informed in real time.

“Rather than just saying school is open or closed it gives us the ability to let people in on some of our thinking and what some of the rationale is what some of the concerns are,” Behm said.

For the latest closing information, visit the News 8 closings and delays page.

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