Winter weather closes down school district, Woods

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 6, 2019

 Extreme weather conditions prompted Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall, Lake Front Park, the Grosse Pointe Woods Community Center and the city’s Department of Public Works office to close all day Jan. 30 and the morning of Jan. 31.

Extreme weather conditions prompted Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall, Lake Front Park, the Grosse Pointe Woods Community Center and the city’s Department of Public Works office to close all day Jan. 30 and the morning of Jan. 31.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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GROSSE POINTES — Students and staff from the Grosse Pointe Public School System chilled out last week when school was closed Jan. 28-29 and again Jan. 31 due to the arctic weather that Michigan endured.

According to GPPSS Superintendent Gary Niehaus, the choice was made to close the district last Monday as a snow day. School closed last Wednesday and Thursday because of the cold weather and windchill.

Families were notified of the school closings through robocalls, email, the district’s website and media outlets. There are many factors Grosse Pointe school officials look for when deciding to close school; factors include snow accumulation, road conditions and wind conditions.

“The amount of snow is a factor, but more important is when the snow comes,” Niehaus said in an email. “We have six municipals that plow snow routinely. Wayne County RESA (Regional Educational Service Agencies) superintendents have a conference call to discuss weather conditions and determine closures. Oakland County (Intermediate School District) has the same for their superintendents.”

Along with Niehaus, Jon Dean, district deputy superintendent for human resources and educational services; Lisa Abbey, district deputy superintendent for business and support services; and Rich VanGorder, director of building and grounds, check parking lots and road conditions prior to making a decision whether or not to close school.

District staff members will be paid for the days off, as teachers have 180 days to work and administrators have 10- 11- and 12-month contracts. At this point, the students will not have to make up the missed class time.

“The school calendar is for 180 days of school,” Niehaus said. “We have six Act of God days that can be used during the school year. If we use more (than) six Act of God days, then we can ask for a waiver from MDE (Michigan Department of Education) for three more days.”

Extreme weather conditions also prompted Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall, Lake Front Park, the Grosse Pointe Woods Community Center and the city’s Department of Public Works office to close all day Jan. 30 and the morning of Jan. 31. Public Works employees who work outside,  however, reported to work.

The Grosse Pointe Woods Municipal Court and its offices were open Jan. 30, but according to a city email, employees there were to close when the scheduled court docket was completed. The Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety remained open.

Because of snow accumulation and hazardous driving conditions, the Jan. 28 Grosse Pointe Woods City Council meeting was canceled. Items from the agenda were rescheduled for the Feb. 4 City Council meeting. Employees also were allowed to leave at 3 p.m. because of the snowfall.

“On some of those real horrible days, you’re concerned about their welfare,” Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke said of city employees.

Novitke, City Administrator Bruce Smith, City Clerk Lisa Hathaway and City Treasurer-Comptroller Cathrene Behrens collaborated regarding the closures.

Novitke said residents were notified of the closings via Nixle, email blasts and postings at the City Hall complex. City employees will be compensated for the time they lost and also will have to catch up on any work missed. There have been City Hall closures in the past due to inclement weather, but “it’s very infrequent,” Novitke said.

Grosse Pointe Woods’ rubbish schedule with Green For Life was on schedule last week.

Despite the frigid temperatures, Grosse Pointe Woods Director of Public Services Frank Schulte said the week “went very well.” There weren’t any water main breaks and the city’s employees working outside did not experience any frostbite.

Schulte said the city received 6 inches of snow Jan. 28, and because of local weather forecasts, employees were prepared for the snowfall. The Department of Public Works employees were split into two groups to plow the snowfall and salt the streets over the course of Monday and Tuesday.

One group of DPW employees spent Jan. 28 snowplowing and salting the streets during the daytime, and a second crew went at from midnight to 8 a.m. to plow and salt the streets in the early morning hours of Jan. 29. Staff also took care of sidewalks

“Our plows were ready to go. We do the whole city,” Schulte said.

That encompasses 52 miles of roadways, including Vernier Road, Mack Avenue, Cook Road, municipal parking lots and residential streets. Road crews also made sure the city’s Department of Public Safety roadways were cleared so that firetrucks had proper access.

The city has used about 400 tons of salt so far this winter, Schulte said.

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