K-State stays open despite subzero temperatures

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The forecasted high in Manhattan for Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 was 0°F, but it felt like -20°F throughout the day. Large swaths of the state of Kansas, including Manhattan, were under a windchill advisory. (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Despite subzero temperatures expected today, overnight snow accumulation and other winter weather conditions, Kansas State held classes on Monday with “some service exceptions,” according to a university alert sent out the night before.

“I definitely think that K-State should be more considerate to students,” Ashley Kragelund, junior in animal sciences and industry, said. “For some students walking all the way across campus for a class just isn’t feasible in this weather and it can be dangerous if people aren’t able to dress properly.”

The decision to open or close for weather is always a difficult one, chief financial officer Cindy Bontrager said, especially because there isn’t a set framework in place that outlines metrics. That’s because the weather is always so unpredictable.

“Each event is so unique and different,” Bontrager said. “We try to have some thresholds, we try to have some benchmarks in there that say ‘We have to look at this.’ … We need to take different things into consideration when you’re making this type of decision.”

Part of the calculus for making these decision, Bontrager said, is the university’s other obligations beyond instruction, like housing students, caring for animals on the grounds and other operations.

(Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)
The major concern Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, K-State CFO Cindy Bontrager said, was the wind chill that made the already subzero temperatures feel more brutal. Snow, which was also in the forecast, wasn't the main concern in the university's decision since it wasn't expected in large quantities, (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

The major concern Monday, Bontrager said, is the wind chill that makes the already subzero temperatures feel more brutal. The forecasted high in Manhattan for Monday is 0°F, but it’s expected to feel around -20°F throughout the day. Large swaths of the state of Kansas, including Manhattan, are under a windchill advisory.

Sunday evening, Gov. Laura Kelly issued a Disaster Emergency for the state of Kansas related to the windchill advisory.

However, snow, which is in the forecast, isn’t the main concern in the university’s decision since it isn’t expected in large quantities, Bontrager said.

“As the extreme cold temperatures continue to affect the region, we are urging Kansans to conserve energy in order to help ensure a continued supply of natural gas and electricity and keep their own personal costs down,” Kelly said via a press release.

This winter weather is expected to linger through the end of the week and possibly into next week.

Monday and during other winter weather events, Bontrager said each person needs to make independent decisions for themselves based on their own needs and barriers.

“They need to … evaluate their own situation and make a decision based upon their individual circumstances. These decisions should not be considered like [a] blanket,” Bontrager said. “There’s always going to be exceptions to that.”

Kragelund said she thinks a better solution would be to switch to remote classes during severe weather. She says her instructors and professors were pretty flexible on Monday, allowing students to come to class on Zoom or brave the cold if they desired for in-person classes.

“I did have the option to go in person this morning and chose not to because of the temperatures,” she said.

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My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the 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.