Several school districts in the Wichita area canceled classes Thursday, citing icy roads and dangerous conditions for drivers and pedestrians.
But Wichita pressed on, warning on social media that some bus routes could run late but that school would be in session.
Some people weren’t happy.
“Has the superintendent Alicia Thompson taken leave of her senses???” one woman commented on the district’s Facebook page.
“They want us to die,” said another.
The Derby and Mulvane school districts just south of Wichita also held classes Thursday. Several other districts, including Andover, Maize, Goddard and Valley Center, canceled school.
All 60 of Wichita’s city trucks were treating major roads as a storm system moved through the area, causing havoc for many drivers.
About 90 accidents were reported Thursday between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. to the Wichita Police Department. Kansas Highway Patrol troopers in the Wichita area worked more than 30 crashes between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Wichita district officials say administrators weigh several factors before deciding whether to cancel school, including road conditions, wind chill forecasts and the conditions of school parking lots and bus lanes.
“We’re not going to make everybody happy. We know that,” said district spokeswoman Susan Arensman on Thursday.
“We were going with the best information we had for the weather” Thursday morning, she said. Forecasts called for low temperatures and precipitation between 6 and 7 a.m., when buses already were on the road for early-start magnet schools.
“It was supposed to be fairly minor, and we felt like we could go without significant issues,” Arensman said. “It looks like most of it is wrapped up already, and we haven’t had any major problems.”
A Wichita school bus slid off the highway near Kellogg and I-135 during the morning commute. There were no students on board, and the driver was able to get back on the road and finish the route, she said.
Officials cancel if “the overall safety of students would be greatly jeopardized and the operations of the school district would be significantly impaired,” the district’s weather procedures state.
Decisions usually are made no later than 5:30 a.m. to allow parents and employers time to make appropriate plans.
District leaders say weather cancellations are among their most difficult and controversial decisions. Some parents say students shouldn’t be required to walk, drive or wait for buses in potentially treacherous conditions; others complain about having to find child care when school is canceled, particularly at the last minute.
“It’s Kansas, and we all know weather can turn on a dime,” Arensman said. “We were working with the best information we had at the time, and we believe we made the right decision.”
About 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the district tweeted that afternoon and evening events would take place as scheduled.
The district’s policy on absences does not list weather as a valid excuse. However, Arensman said parents who opt to keep their children home should call the school to report the absence.
A shortened school calendar for Wichita students means there isn’t much leeway for snow days this year. If the district cancels school because of weather, it could have to make up those days in May.
But Arensman said that wasn’t a factor in Thursday’s decision.
“That wasn’t any part of the consideration,” she said.