Winter Storm Forces Texas School Closures

The winter storm that blew through Texas this weekend brought up to six inches of snow and below-zero wind chills, and it has left hundreds of thousands without electricity. Accordingly, many school districts around the state have announced campus closures for Tuesday, Feb. 16, and beyond.

Some districts proceeded with virtual learning late last week, at the storm’s beginning. However, as the record cold temperatures continued and caused residents to stress the state’s power grid, many students and teachers alike have been left without power. Classes had already been cancelled on Monday, Feb. 15, for Presidents Day, but district employees were still scheduled for professional development training. Rampant technical issues among faculty and staff caused officials to rethink holding classes on Tuesday.

“In hearing from our staff this morning about the challenges they were having with their own power outages and being able to work from home,” said Laura Jobe of the Mesquite Independent School District, “we took that into consideration and thought, ‘Of course our families are experiencing the same.’”

Across Dallas, Richardson ISD, Mesquite ISD, and Irving ISD all announced on Monday that both in-person and virtual classes would be cancelled on Tuesday. Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD, and Grand Prairie ISD have cancelled all classes on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Texas Education Agency has announced that Texas school districts are eligible for “missed school day” waivers if they are forced to shut down due to power outages. They must submit a different waiver, though, if they switch to an all-virtual learning day. Most school districts include an “inclement weather” day or two in the school calendar. Districts that close may have to use one of these scheduled bad-weather days or make up the day later on in the school year.

Similarly, a large swath of school districts across Central Texas has also either cancelled classes or shifted to virtual learning for the week. Some will proceed with remote learning as soon as Tuesday, while others have cancelled classes entirely for the rest of the week.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added yet another wrinkle to business as usual. Now that faculty, staff, and students are fully equipped for remote learning, the decision to cancel school for a “snow day” isn’t as cut-and-dried as it has been previously. Jobe noted that district employees and officials have remained in close contact with each other and area superintendents to present a consistent plan.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].