How severe weather impacts decisions for school closures
Chiara Greco ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
The University of Toronto (U of T) St. George campus saw its first weather closures in about five years earlier this month. With Canadian winters being consistently unpredictable, U of T as well as other schools across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) prepared accordingly with the inclement weather warnings given throughout the month — or at least most did.
From the night of February 11 into early morning on February 12, Ontario was given an extreme weather warning. Snow, ice pellets, freezing rain, and limited visibility were among the many hazardous conditions according to an Environment Canada statement. With this weather warning given well in advance, most universities across the GTA prepared for cancellations and closures accordingly.
U of T’s Scarborough (UTSC) and Mississauga (UTM) campuses announced they were closing at around 6:30–7:00 a.m. the morning of February 12. Other universities in the downtown area such as OCAD and Ryerson followed suit, whereas the U of T St. George (UTSG) campus remained open that morning despite the weather warning.
By mid-morning, both the Catholic and public Toronto District School Boards enlisted board-wide cancellations and snow days due to the extreme weather. Yet, UTSG campus, with a large body of commuter students, remained open without issuing any cancellations until mid-afternoon, and by that time most schools in the surrounding area had already been closed, and most students had already trekked downtown to write midterms.
By 12 p.m. on the same day, UTSG campus announced that all classes, tutorials, exams, etc. starting at 4 p.m. were to be cancelled — the campus itself remained open at this point. Here the question arises as to why it took so long for UTSG to announce cancellations while all other schools within walking distance of the downtown campus had already been prepared for closures by the early morning.
All decisions regarding closures of the three U of T campuses have to go through their own Governing Council. This means that each campus’ Vice-President, Principal, and Vice President of Human Resources and Equity have the final say in decision-making on cancellations. UTSG campus in particular makes cancellation decisions through the advice from Campus Police, the Vice-President, and University Operations. This decision-making process also applies to decisions for cancellations based on severe weather conditions — as was made on February 12. The other universities mentioned have their own process of decision-making.
In the case of communication as according to the Provost, “Efforts will be made to announce any closures/cancellations no later than 6:00 a.m. UTM and UTSC communications departments will then inform their own campuses of the situation and inform University of Toronto Communications. The communications departments (UTM, UTSC, University of Toronto Communications) are responsible for notifying the tri-campus community through various communication channels.”
However, with the general tone of student responses on these media platforms taken into consideration, it seemed as though adequate updates and reasons for UTSG late cancellations were not given out in a timely manner.
With much speculation being drawn as to the times of this cancellation, it can be said that closures can be viewed as costly especially if days off begin to pile up, which is why most post-secondary schools usually don’t close for a full day.