Snow days unlikely to alter University schedule

Thomas Whited, graduate student from Kansas City, Mo., removes ice and snow from his car during February's snowstorm.

Thomas Whited, graduate student from Kansas City, Mo., removes ice and snow from his car during February’s snowstorm. Photo by Nicole Ely/The News.

(WITH VIDEO) – Murray State is in for a second round of winter weather as the National Weather Service predicts between 6 and 8 inches of snow and sleet to fall by Thursday morning. While the University is slated to open Wednesday, officials still could decide to close campus midday or Thursday.

The weather service predicts 3 inches of rain overnight into Wednesday. But as colder temperatures blow into western Kentucky, that rain will change to sleet and snow throughout Wednesday.

More snow raises the prospects of cancellations similar to the week of Feb. 16., in which all Murray State campuses closed for five consecutive days because of a combination of snow, ice and below freezing temperatures.

President Bob Davies said Tuesday any decision to close will come after officials assess key points and different factors, such as forecasts and driving conditions, that play into what decisions will be made and when.

He said the safety of students, faculty and staff is the most important factor.

“Safety first,” Davies said. “Safety first, no question about it. Safety of faculty, staff and students. Our goal is to have the University open – we want to open ­– but if it’s not safe we’re not going to do it.”

To get students, faculty and staff to campus, Davies said the City of Murray is essential in helping to clear roads and ensure safety. He said there is clear communication between Murray State’s administration and the city leaders that plays a part in deciding closures or delays.

“The mayor and the county judge/executive and I have a direct line to each other,” he said. “We talk regularly and during these times we have direct communication. More importantly, our facilities crew had direct communication to the city and county’s facilities crews. We share information and we share resources.”

While the first snowstorm took away five days of class time, students should not expect to have to make up those additional classes. Davies said as of now, he has no plans to cancel Spring Break or extend classes into finals week.

He said public universities such as Murray State do not have to be in session a specific number of days like K-12 school districts. Instead public colleges are measured by credit hours and learning outcomes.

“We have an obligation to live up to federal standards and accreditation standards of what a credit hour means,” Davies said. “There is some wiggle room in that … we need to assure that we’re doing everything we can to uphold that standard.”

Davies said the five snow days have not affected the standards, but losing another five days would add challenges that may alter the 2014-15 schedule.

He said that if Wednesday’s snowstorm closed campus for Thursday and Friday, the University would enter a “gray area” of upholding standards. This “gray area” means that the University’s administration would need to assess how students are progressing and then determine whether or not to make any scheduling changes.

He said as of now, there has been some small and vague discussion about modifying finals week, but it cannot be officially determined until after this week’s storm.

To make up for missed classes and assignments, some professors have posted assignments and lectures to Canvas, however Davies said the challenge with replacing class time with Canvas is that it can be difficult to translate some types of lectures to an online format.

“If a class is so emphasized with face-to-face, to do that easily in mass is not a solution,” he said. “But, I do know quite a few professors did. They reached out to their classes through Canvas and other means and said, ‘Here are your homework assignments, keep going!’”

He said that even with the previous snow days and with what might come in the next few days, it is possible for student to still learn whether in or out of the classroom.

“Classes are canceled,” Davies said. “Learning is not.”

Mary Bradley, Editor-in-Chief