PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Ottawa teacher known for his school closing predictions is calling it a career in the classroom, though the predictions are set to continue.

Ken Arthurs is calling it a career at West Ottawa Public Schools after 29 years, the past 22 of which were spent teaching fourth grade at Lakewood Elementary. Observing his classroom work through math problems, it’s clear he’s been loved by his fourth-grade students.

Ken Arthurs in the classroom. (June 2023)
Ken Arthurs in the classroom. (June 2023)

Outside of the classroom, Arthurs has been doing a little math of his own for some 20 years — math that captivates his colleagues just as much as those problems do his students.

Arthurs said he has been making school closing predictions for West Ottawa for the past 20 years. Call it a game of telephone, one that immediately had teachers’ ears ringing.

“Any time there was the potential for a snow day, I began to talk about it a little bit with my colleagues and then we would just kind of chat about it,” he said.

Arthurs’ love for weather began at the same age as the kids he has been teaching, so making school closing predictions was a natural fit. But with almost anything in life, the key to success is adapting to change — and over the years, that game of telephone has turned into something much bigger.

“Eventually they said, ‘Well, why don’t you just start texting us there and all the information?'” Arthurs recalled. “And so I was like, OK. And then more and more people got on the group text and pretty soon it just exploded and started getting forwarded out to various teachers around the district.”

The texts are extensive. His predictions include a detailed forecast analysis and percentage. In the midst of the February ice storm, he gave West Ottawa a 70% chance of closing Thursday, Feb. 23 and a 20% chance Friday, Feb. 24. It was a good call: There was a snow day Thursday and class was back in session Friday.

Knowing his colleagues cling onto every word, Arthurs is careful to not get hopes up too high:

“I’ve been told that I’m a little conservative,” he said.

The reason?

“I have made the mistake and written the words ‘slam dunk’ and it didn’t come through. That was about 15 years ago and I learned my lesson well,” he said.

Among the lessons he’s taking with him into retirement is how to keep the staff at West Ottawa happy.

“I have graciously agreed to continue on with my school closing predictions even in retirement, much to the delight of all the teachers,” Arthurs said.

While any teacher loves an occasional snow day, Arthurs says it’s the days — and the math — done within the classroom that have meant more.

“The thing I’ll miss most about teaching is the relationships that I’ve built with the students and the staff, the daily interaction and building those long-term relationships,” he said.