Campus closure procedures
October 24, 2013

One of the challenges the college faces each year is how to respond to various weather conditions that may present some danger to those travelling to or from campus. As we are now approaching the winter season, it is important for staff and students to understand how Georgian responds to such situations.

Campus Closure Procedure

As much as is reasonably possible, the college generally follows the Procedure #2-102 Unscheduled College Closure – available for viewing by staff on Georgian’s website – when dealing with weather related campus closures. While every effort is made to adhere to the details of this Procedure, the vagaries the weather and weather forecasting may make it necessary for the college to deviate slightly from this Procedure when circumstances dictate that an alternative or timelier action is required.

The following are some notable highlights of the Procedure and the college’s approach to campus closures for clarification purposes:

It is the college’s intent to remain open as much as is reasonably possible to ensure it is able to deliver programs and services to its students. However, when the safety of students and staff is seriously jeopardized or the college’s ability to operate effectively is compromised, a campus will be closed.

Staff and students may have to make individual decisions based on their own situation. Students and staff make personal decisions about where to live and how they get to Georgian and, as a result, can live across a broad geographic area at some distance from their campus. The weather, particularly in the winter, can vary dramatically from area to area. Current conditions at your campus may be quite different than those at your home location. Individuals must take responsibility for their personal safety and make decisions based on their particular circumstances. In such circumstances, staff should consult their supervisors and students should consult their instructor, program co-ordinator or Dean. The intent is that individuals should not be disadvantaged when they have made a reasonable decision based on safety considerations.

A wide range of variables are considered by the college when making the decision to close a campus:
o Staff involved in making the decision are generally aware the previous day that weather may be an issue the following day. Monitoring of conditions will often begin at that time.
o Usually between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. data from weather radar, Environment Canada weather warnings, road reports, weather forecasts, bus cancellations, etc. are gathered to assist in decision-making. Input will also be received from campus’ snow removal crews as to the actual current condition of the campus.

Generally the college will try to make its closure decision early in the morning to avoid situations where individuals start their commute to campus unnecessarily. The objective is to make the decision to close by about 6:00 a.m. where possible based on available information. At that time the college’s communication protocol will be implemented.

The weather can be unpredictable at times, particularly with the effects of the Great Lakes in this region. Often a day will turn out differently than had been forecast. Depending on the weather pattern, it may be appropriate to close a campus after it has commenced operations for the day. This is less than ideal as it is important to avoid sending students and staff out into the middle of rough weather and bad driving conditions. Occasionally, based on the latest weather information, the college may elect to either not close at all or to delay a mid-day closure to allow sufficient time for the storm to pass and to provide time for the clearing of roads and highways. When there is a closure during the day, the college will make every effort to announce any plans to cancel evening programs by mid-afternoon.

The decision for the closure of each campus is made independently based on its particular circumstances. Hearing that one campus is closed does not necessarily mean that any other campus is affected.

If you suspect that your campus might be closing, you are well advised to either check the Georgian web site or call the main number of your campus to obtain the most current and accurate information. Radio stations are always deluged with cancellations during storms and may not be sharing closure information as promptly as desired. Sometimes information through the media may also be inaccurate, especially for those situations where one campus might be closed and another remains open within a station’s broadcast region.
Snow Clearing Practices

Snow clearing operations on campus are difficult at the best of times. Work is usually performed in the dark and often under extreme weather conditions that can change rapidly. For example, the Barrie campus snow removal crew must clear 15 parking lots, extensive roadways, and over 125 doorways and associated sidewalks with each snowfall.

It is almost impossible to try to remove snow when the parking lots are full of cars. Therefore, most of the college’s snow clearing operations take place during the overnight hours. The crew starts at about 10 p.m. thus ensuring that most, if not all, vehicles have left the campus. The crew will continue its work until sometime the next morning as conditions dictate. Ideally this will mean that by the time students and staff begin to arrive in the morning the campus roads, parking lots and sidewalks are clear of snow.

The biggest challenge to the ultimate success of the snow clearing effort is the timing and quantity of precipitation and the wind that accompanies it. A heavy snowfall under windy conditions which starts in the early morning hours can have a significantly detrimental impact on the conditions at the campus. The full crew, utilizing all of the available equipment, is able to plow all of the roads and lots overnight but can be overwhelmed by the amount of snow that falls after 4:00 a.m. with a high wind. Such a snowfall can fill in everything previously plowed leaving the campus unsafe when staff and students begin to arrive.

If it is determined that the snow cannot be adequately cleared by morning, this information would normally be shared with the staff responsible for making the campus closure decision. It should be noted that the college has had to close on occasion simply to allow adequate time for a car-free campus to be properly cleared of snow after a storm.
Impact on Funding

It is also important to dispel a myth that always seems to surface when the issue of campus closures arises. It is often said that the decision of the college to close or not is directly influenced by the impact such a closure would have on Georgian’s government grant funding. There has never been a provincial funding mechanism in place whereby a college’s operating grant funding would be reduced if it closed for all or part of a day due to weather or some other safety condition. Government funding is simply not a factor in making the closure decision.

Safe travels this winter!