Grand Rapids Public Schools Close for Historic Week-Long Snow Day

by Elyse Wild 

Students of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) are enjoying the longest snow day in the district’s history; officials just announced GRPS schools will be closed until Monday, Feb. 4, making for a total of five consecutive days.

What led to this mother of all snow days? Did GRPS students, eager for a few days off, take their cues from folklore and sleep with their pajamas on backward, tuck spoons under their pillows or flush ice cubes down the toilet?

John Helmholdt, GRPS executive director of communications and external affairs, said that a combination of factors led to the historic closure.

“The plows need time to dig the streets out,” Helmholdt said. “And our families need time to shovel, which won’t be safe to do until the wind chill goes up on Friday.”

When determining whether to close schools for a snow day, officials consider a number of aspects: the windchill, sidewalk conditions and road conditions. GRPS works with the city to determine if roads are traversable and communicates with the National Weather Service to stay up-to-date on conditions. Additionally, Dean Transportation, the company that provides busing to the school district, and the GRPS Department of Public Safety conduct test runs on problematic roads.

“There is no perfect science to it,” Helmholdt commented.

Developed by then high-schooler David Sukhin in 2011, students can use the Snow Day Calculator to see the odds of their school closing due to weather. The calculator takes into a consideration a combination of zip code, school type, snow removal and the school’s previous snow days. Hailey Pranskaitis is a 10th grader at CA Frost Science Academy High School and used the calculator on Sunday evening to calculate her chances of enjoying a snow day. The results? Ninety-nine percent.

Last year, GRPS didn’t use a single snow day, and Pranskaitis is thrilled at the current closure.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “GRPS never closes. It’s like a second winter break.”

With West Michigan experiencing record wind chills, Pranskaitis and her fellow GRPS students won’t likely be building forts and waging snowball fights on there time off.

“There isn’t a lot you can do,” she expressed. “But you have to be grateful that you’re not in school. I want to thank GRPS for giving us a snow day, finally.”

The State of Michigan allows districts to have six days or equivalent hours as forgiven time due to bad weather, sickness outbreaks or infrastructure problems. Any missed days beyond that must be rescheduled for schools to meet the required minimum of 180 days of instruction.

“We have great teachers who will help our students get back on track and make up for the learning they missed over this week,” Helmholdt commented.

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