University cancels classes for fourth time this semester

Facilities management works clear snow

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“We owe a great deal of thanks to our ‘designated’ employees who must report to work regardless of the weather,” University spokesperson McGregor McCance said. “They may provide essential services during weather events…such as clearing roads and pedestrian routes, operating dining facilities and residence halls for our students and more.”

For the fourth time this semester, the University canceled classes because of snow. At 5 a.m. Monday morning, the University announced classes would begin at 10 a.m., only to cancel classes completely at 7:45 a.m.

The City of Charlottesville also announced the government would open late at 10:30 a.m., and Charlottesville and Albemarle County schools were closed.

The University’s decision to close, which was announced by the University’s Office for Emergency Preparedness, is made by University leadership after consulting representatives from across Grounds, including the police department and transportation administrators.

As winter storms vary in severity, there is no standard criteria for closure. The administration says decisions are made on a case-by-case process which weighs a combination of factors, though safety remains the top consideration. Certain “designated” University employees are still required to report to work in the event of a cancellation.

“We owe a great deal of thanks to our ‘designated’ employees who must report to work regardless of the weather,” University spokesperson McGregor McCance said. “They may provide essential services during weather events … such as clearing roads and pedestrian routes, operating dining facilities and residence halls for our students and more.”

Many workers are housed in nearby hotels to make sure there are enough staff on hand within walking distance of the University.

The University Facilities Management department is responsible for on-Grounds snow removal.

“The snow removal is really a team effort,” Superintendent of Landscape Patrick Hopkins said. “Everyone from Facilities comes together to make sure classes and University business will be able to operate as soon as possible — even the plumbers.”

Additionally, the University uses its own fleet of roughly 20-22 plough vehicles to clear roads and parking lots. For added capability, private contractors are hired to lend a hand when those trucks are tied down in the lots, ensuring a speedier clean-up.

Hopkins said this storm was not as bad as the one which hit last month, and he did not foresee icy conditions.

“There is no ice and the water is running, which is a nice thing,” he said. “It’s nothing we can’t handle. Snow shovels are working fine.”

Hopkins added the burden these regular winter storms inflict on the University is less financial than it is personnel-related.

“The University can’t really budget for frequency when it comes to snow, but they can deal with it financially,” he said. “On a personal level, it takes a toll on the guys. They have families and their own homes to care for and it’s back-breaking work.”

Hopkins said he is optimistic the University would be up and running by Tuesday at regular hours, despite forecasts of a 20 percent chance of freezing rain throughout the night.

“The winter storm warning is over, so I’d like to see classes open tomorrow,” he said.


Published March 17, 2014 in FP test, News





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