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How Snow Days at Briar Cliff are Determined

February 17, 2020 | by Julie Knowles

Every so often, Briar Cliff University students and faculty wake up to an email declaring a snow day and meaning they can catch up on an extra day of sleep or work.

Todd Knealing, the vice president of academic and student affairs, is one of those responsible for determining the snow day and relaying the message. To notify people as soon as possible, Knealing wakes up extra early to check the weather.

“I’ll get up and check all the major news networks. I check for Western Iowa Tech community college, Morningside and Sioux City public schools,” says Knealing. “If everyone else has closed, we are very likely going to close as well. Lately, however, we’ve been the one making the decision sooner than others.”

The easier days for Knealing to make a decision are when it “dumps overnight.”

“Everyone can pretty much count on that there is probably going to be some sort of cancelation or delay,” he says. “If nothing happens or if something happens during the day, then it is a little more confusing.”

Determining a campus-closing snow day isn’t necessarily a simple task. There are other alternatives to closing-down campus for the day. Weather can be unpredictable which can bring some decision making down-to-the-wire. That’s where delay-start and early dismissal can be utilized.

Knealing says, “I think what then happens on those days is we are more inclined that if it is looking kind of bad, we do a delay for that 10 a.m. slot. It gives you that cushion of an extra couple of hours to see what happens.”

Due to BCU’s unique location, it is not heavily trafficked like the public roads are. The city will be out clearing the roads as quick as they can, but they plow, salt and chemical the one’s around campus privately. Knealing says he keeps in contact with BCU’s director of facilities and the maintenance supervisor for updates of the campus.

“I found out our road up to campus was okay, mostly, sidewalks were passable, but the parking lots were skating rinks,” he says. “They were saying they were not going to get those cleared because we were trying to keep stuff off the sidewalks to allow students to move around campus. That’s what resulted in that day being closed.”

Their main priority is to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles to be able to make it up the hill, and the sidewalks shoveled to allow student to move safely around campus.

BCU Head of Security, Marty Pottebaum, says no matter what weather, security doesn’t have off-days.

“…we are here 24/7 365 days a year,” says Pottebaum. “If school and offices are closed security still shows up and does their shifts. We get a little busier on snow days because kids aren’t in class.”

With students having the day off, many like to leave campus. During or after storms, however, it isn’t always easy to get off the Cliff.

“You have some that want to go drive and if it’s a heavy snow they have trouble getting out of the parking places,” says Pottebaum. “We try to help if we can,” he adds.

Two girls take turns scraping ice off the inside of a car windshield.

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