Let it snow: Administration examines alert policy for inclement weather, campus closures

Snow blankets the greenery in front of Anderson Hall on Nov. 8, 2018. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Winter is about a month away, but Manhattan and much of Kansas has already seen snow. To prepare for awaiting frosty conditions, the university looks to revamp how and when it notifies students of campus closures for severe weather.

“What we talked about is trying to get the communication out sooner,” Cindy Bontrager, vice president for administration and finance, said. “In our process, we are trying to make that decision more quickly so we can get that information out to students, faculty and staff more timely.”

Bontrager said there are two reasons to examine the policy. Part of it, she said, is it’s something the university tries to look at annually.

The other part is Kansas State trying to right some wrongs from last year’s handling of campus closures for inclement weather in colder months.

“We are going to try to do better in those types of circumstances,” Bontrager said. “We thought it was a good time to hear back and have a discussion of what concerns were there from last year … as we are beginning to prepare for another winter.”

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(Infographic by Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

One specific example, she said, is the decision to delay classes in response to a winter storm at the end of last Thanksgiving Break. With students traveling from all around to come back for Monday classes and storms blowing across the majority of the state of Kansas that Sunday, it brewed a tricky situation, Bontrager said.

“We would have wished we made that decision sooner and just said, ‘You know what? We are just going to delay,'” Bontrager said. “I think that one was a learning lesson. … That’s a good example of ‘Let’s do that one differently.’”

That doesn’t mean students will see more snow or ice days in the coming months, Bontrager said. The alterations to the plan also will not change how the decision to cancel or delay class are made, but really looks at when that decision is made.

“It’s so difficult to predict snow and ice and cold and all of that,” Bontrager said. “There will be more times we may be off, where we may choose to close or delay campus when actually snow didn’t come in as much as they predicted and there may be times when we get surprised.”

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.