By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — Welcome to the CBS Chicago School Closing Early Warning Center™.
In about 36 hours, the Chicago area is looking at the potential for record cold temperatures, along with wind chills so bad that it will feel like somebody wedged an ice pick into your forehead.
Similar weather closed most of the area schools back in early January, including the Chicago Public Schools.
Are school administrators now more hardened to the brutal cold? Will they consider other factors–like parents are going to sharpen their pitchforks if the kids aren’t on the bus at 7 a.m.?
As of Tuesday afternoon, CPS does not have plans to close schools on Thursday, but officials are continuing to monitor conditions.
Last month, Supt. William Ray Lechner told parents he messed up by closing his schools. At this point, an official with Wilmette District 39 said he did not anticipate the need to close.
An official at Indian Springs Dist. 109 said there is a “good chance” that schools will close. “My line in the sand is minus 25 [wind chill]. We’ll see.”
Most children have missed three to five days of school so far this winter–once for extreme cold in January and again earlier this month after a weekend blizzard.
Districts generally make up those days, but can apply for a waiver from the state. Some schools are contractually obligated to make up the days at the end of the year. CPS held school on Jan. 30, which has been scheduled as a day off for students. Chicago students still have one make-up day hanging over their heads.
Administrators look at a variety of factors, including temperature, timing, road conditions and whether teachers who live in other towns can make it work.
Despite popular belief, most school buses do start in cold weather, especially if bus companies use heaters or a device called a glow plug.
Also, the assumptions that districts would be held liable if, for example, a child developed frost bite, are largely just a myth.
Legal experts have said there is little case history to suggest this has even been litigated often. Lawyers also said proving a school’s negligence for a weather-related incident occurring off campus would be difficult to prove.
On Thursday morning, temperatures are expected to be at or below zero, with wind chills has low as minus 30.