‘Tough decision’ not to cancel Madison schools Thursday

February 8, 2019

Dozens of public school districts across southern Wisconsin closed Thursday as officials warned of slick road conditions, including the DeForest, Middleton-Cross Plains, Monona Grove, Oregon, Stoughton, Sun Prairie and Waunakee districts.

But the Madison School District kept schools open Thursday -- a decision that drew criticism and concern from some. Several people expressed their displeasure on the School District’s Facebook post announcing that classes would be going on, while others said school cancellations can create hardships on parents who need to find childcare.

Chad Wiese, executive director of building and administrative services at the Madison School District, said it was a “tough decision” whether to call off classes Thursday, but the district takes into account information from local meteorologists, transportation providers and the city’s Streets Division when determining if it is safe for students to get to school.

“We don’t have some of the challenges that area school districts have in terms of rural travel or excessively long bus rides and made the determination streets would be passable both in the morning and for dismissal,” he said.

Margo McBain typically volunteers at Glendale Elementary School on Madison’s Southeast Side, but caution kept her at home in Cottage Grove on Thursday, calling the decision not to close “incredibly irresponsible.”

“When you hear sheriff’s offices and weathermen saying ‘Stay off the road, stay off the road,’ it just makes no sense to me. It’s children and teachers at risk, and those teachers are willing to make up the time to not have their lives at risk,” McBain, 67, said.

While she no longer had kids in the district, McBain said her daughter teaches at a Madison school but commutes from Sun Prairie.

Wiese said the five canceled school days for Madison students over the past two weeks did not come up during a conversation Thursday morning about whether to call off school.

“The safety of our students is our first priority when we make a decision like this,” he said.

Wiese said longer commutes for some staff members during inclement weather is part of the consideration, but like parents who chose to keep their children home, he said employees are able to use paid leave time if they do not feel comfortable making it to school.

The Madison School District did cancel evening activities Thursday in anticipation of lowering temperatures that would nullify the effects of road salt on ice, Wiese said.

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