Superintendent consults weather service, colleagues in decision to cancel school

Dr. Ryan McTague Identifies the Factors that Lead to a Snow or Cold Day


A snow plow clears a snowy thoroughfare in McHenry this winter.

Dr. Ryan McTague, Superintendent of District 156, makes the decision to cancel school due to weather based on a variety of factors including consideration of cold temperatures and forecasted severity of precipitation.

McTague watches the forecast and looks to the National Weather Service for information to make an informed decision about school closure on the basis of wind chill events. The NWS identifies a windchill advisory as outdoor weather with a ‘real feel’ of up to -30 degrees.  A windchill warning will be issued when the real feel drops to more than -30 degrees, which makes frostbite a possibility for students who walk to school and wait at bus stops.

McTague explained that school will likely stay open with a wind chill advisory, but when it switches to wind chill warning a school closure is likely.  

“If we get an extreme blizzard storm warning then we’ll probably close because that warning tells us that we’re going to have 8 to 12 inches of snow and it’s going to be impossible for anyone to get to school that day” McTague says.

In events where snowfall amounts are uncertain, McTague monitors the weather through the night. In such instances, crews arrive at school around 3:00 a.m. to begin plowing the parking lots, and McTague himself takes part in surveying conditions. “I’m actually out myself around 3:30 in the morning driving the streets of McHenry to see how things are looking” he says.  

Working with other superintendents is also a key factor in determining whether or not schools will open.  “I keep in close contact with District 15 which is our feeder district, to see what they’re saying and how they’re feeling about whether or not we can open school” McTague states.  

The decision to close schools is never easy, but safety is the utmost concern, according to McTague.  District 156 schools have had four school days canceled this year on account of weather.