when do schools close due to weather

When do schools close due to weather? Although kids do not seem to mind it, the truth is that schools closing due to weather can hurt their studies in a big way.

But, it is also true that not all weather events call for closure. Many factors are at play here, and the geographical climatic conditions can have a big impact.

So, what exactly are the situations leading to severe weather school closures?

Schools close when severe weather leads to heavy snowfall, floods, and a disruption to the transportation system. 

Understanding the Decision-Making Process

understanding the decision-making process

Deciding whether or not to close schools because of severe weather is a complex procedure. 

And it requires collaboration between:

  • School officials
  • Local authorities
  • Emergency management agencies

School administrators, who are frequently the main decision-makers, collaborate closely with local government entities like the Department of Transportation and Emergency Services.

Collaboratively, they utilize their knowledge to evaluate the intensity and length of the atmospheric phenomenon, along with the security of student transportation. 

Evaluation of Weather Severity and Duration

evaluation of weather severity and duration

Assessing the severity of weather conditions is vital in making informed decisions.

Many entities play a vital role in supplying essential meteorological information and predictions.

As an example, the weather department has the ability to forecast:

  • The amount of snowfall
  • The probability of icy conditions on roads
  • The potential for winds reaching hurricane force
Fact: The consideration of the weather event's anticipated duration is also taken into account, particularly if it aligns with the times when students are commuting to school. 

Assessment of Transportation and Infrastructure Safety

assessment of transportation and infrastructure safety

At the same time, the Department of Transportation evaluates the possible effects on transportation infrastructure.

For instance, they could assess the ability of school buses to safely navigate icy roads or traverse areas prone to flooding.

The structural integrity of the school buildings is also taken into account, as severe weather conditions may potentially jeopardize their physical condition. 

Importance of Communication and Timely Decisions

Efficient communication among all parties is necessary to facilitate the interplay of these factors.

importance of communication and timely decisions

Seamless integration of weather forecasts with logistical considerations regarding transport and infrastructure safety is crucial for effective updates.

This procedure empowers well-informed, prompt choices that give priority to the safety of students while minimizing any interference with their academic progress.

Fact: The school closing procedure in motion can be observed in the forward closure determinations made by educational institutions during the 2020 wildfires in Colorado. 

When Do Schools Close Due to Weather?

Determining whether or not to close schools in response to inclement weather is a careful juggling act.

It involves prioritizing the safety of students while also striving to minimize any disruptions to their education.

Decisions of this nature are frequently specific to particular areas, showcasing the distinct geographical, climatic, and infrastructural characteristics found in various regions.   

School Closures Due to Snow and Ice

school closures due to snow and ice

In regions with cold climates such as the northern United States, Canada, Scandinavia, and certain parts of Asia, schools often face significant difficulties due to winter weather conditions.

These regions are familiar with the usual winter weather, and their infrastructure is specifically built to handle frequent snowfall and icy situations.

Nevertheless, these systems are frequently pushed to their limits by severe weather occurrences. 

Impact of Heavy Snowfall and Icy Conditions

impact of heavy snowfall and icy conditions

Severe snowfall and icy conditions often lead to major transportation challenges. Road conditions can turn hazardous or impossible to navigate, posing a risk for school buses to operate.

And this is especially true for the northern United States because of the high average snowfall in winter.

For instance:

StateAverage Snowfall (inches)
New Hampshire71.44
New York55.32
Fact: In 2019, a blizzard occurred in Minnesota, resulting in the shutdown of multiple schools because of over 12 inches of snowfall and wind chills plummeting to -30F.   

Risk of Extremely Low Temperatures

risk of extremely low temperatures

School closures can also be caused by extremely cold temperatures.

When the temperature drops significantly, students who have to wait for buses or walk to school face genuine dangers such as frostbite and hypothermia.

For example, Chicago Public Schools implemented a guideline to shut down when the predicted wind chill drops below -35 degrees Fahrenheit.

This aligns with the criteria set by the National Weather Service for issuing a Wind Chill Advisory. 

School Closures due to Storms and Flooding

school closures due to storms and flooding

In regions with tropical climates, the weather varies significantly compared to colder regions.

School operations can be significantly impacted by severe storms, hurricanes, and heavy rainfall, which are frequently experienced in these areas. 

Effects of Heavy Rainfall and Flooding

Flooding is a common occurrence in these regions when there are heavy rains, particularly in areas with lower elevations.

Excessive flooding can cause roads to become impassable, posing a major challenge in ensuring the safe transportation of students to and from school.

On 3rd July 2023, educational institutions across northern India faced closure as a result of extensive flooding triggered by torrential rain.   

Effects of Hurricanes and Typhoons

effects of hurricanes and typhoons

Hurricanes and typhoons, which are frequently experienced in various tropical areas, present a unique array of difficulties.

School buildings can suffer from structural damage due to the powerful force of high-speed winds, and the occurrence of storm surges can result in widespread flooding.

In certain situations, educational institutions may need to be temporarily or, in severe circumstances, permanently shut down due to these natural calamities. 

School Closures Due to Heat and Drought

school closures due to heat and drought

Regions that experience aridity and semi-aridity encounter distinct difficulties related to weather that have the potential to impact school activities.

It is especially true for areas, such as:

  • Certain in the Middle East
  • Africa
  • Australia
  • The southwestern United States

Some of the main factors are characterized by intense heat and dry spells. 

Effects of Extreme Heat

effects of extreme heat

Excessive heat has the potential to present a significant health hazard to both students and staff members.

Insufficient air conditioning in educational institutions can lead to hazardous levels of heat, increasing the likelihood of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

For instance, in 2016, numerous educational institutions in Victoria, Australia, had to shut down temporarily because of scorching heatwave conditions

Effects of Prolonged Droughts

Extended periods of dry weather pose an additional obstacle. Water scarcity can pose challenges for educational institutions in upholding essential hygiene protocols.

Due to insufficient water supply for sanitation, drinking, and cooling purposes, schools might face the possibility of temporary closure.

Fact: In 2019, educational institutions in Chennai, India, were compelled to shut down owing to a severe water scarcity that ensued after a prolonged spell of drought.   

The Impact of Climate Change on School Closures

impact of climate change on school closures

The impact of climate change on education is becoming more apparent as extreme weather conditions result in a higher number of school closures.

Elevated worldwide temperatures result in greater unpredictability and intensity of weather phenomena.

Here is a bit more about these issues and how to move forward: 

Rising Temperatures and Severe Weather Events

rising temperatures and severe weather events

As per the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is anticipated that there will be a persistent increase in global temperatures.

And this is likely to lead to an escalation in the occurrence and intensity of heat waves.

This implies that educational institutions, especially in dry and semi-dry areas, could experience more frequent shutdowns as a result of excessive temperatures.

Likewise, higher temperatures can cause increased evaporation rates, leading to intensified precipitation and floods in specific areas. 

Adapting School Policies

To address these challenges, school districts need to modify their policies and infrastructure.

One potential solution is to consider investing in stronger infrastructure, such as:

  • Upgrading school facilities to better withstand severe weather conditions
  • Improving heating and cooling systems to ensure comfortable indoor temperatures 

Embracing Flexible Learning Plans

embracing flexible learning plans

School districts are additionally creating increased adaptable learning strategies to decrease interruptions brought about by weather-related closures.

This may require adjusting timetables or embracing online learning capabilities.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous educational institutions acquired valuable expertise in implementing remote learning methods.

They could prove beneficial in situations where schools are forced to close due to inclement weather.

In light of this transition, it becomes increasingly evident that ensuring every student has the essential technology and a dependable internet connection is crucial. 


When do schools close due to weather?

The determination to close educational institutions because of severe weather is complex, taking into account various factors such as local weather patterns, prioritizing safety, and the ongoing effects of climate change.

Although virtual learning offers a possible resolution, it also highlights the importance of tackling technological inequalities to guarantee that every student can pursue their education.