Falling snow is raising issues at Amarillo College

By Jennifer Fernandez/Ranger staff

A recent snow and ice storm led college officials to close the Amarillo campuses the evening of Feb. 4 and all day Feb. 5. The next week, it snowed again, but classes remained in session.

Joe Wyatt, assistant director of marketing and communications, said AC follows the Amarillo Independent School District weather closing policy because the schools have a lot in common.

AC follows suit when AISD makes the decision to cancel classes. The policy is to announce closures through local television, radio and internet sites and send out alerts by 6 a.m. the day of the closing. In this case, AISD school cancellations were decided the night of Feb. 4, so AC officials made the call to notify all students and staff that night that classes would not be in session the next day.

“There are many people that work and attend the college that have kids in the schools. We need to be aligned with them to have the best outcome for everyone,” Wyatt said.

When it snowed again Feb. 11, both AC and AISD stayed open. Some students said that was a mistake.

 “I’m confused as to why we closed for one snowstorm but not the other, especially because the second one was worse,” Alice McDonald-Pate, an English major, said.

Maeve Emersyn, a psychology major, agreed, saying canceling class Feb. 5 was the right choice and staying open Feb. 11 was a mistake.

“Missing that day caused no issues; however having class on another day the next week when it was even more dangerous was somewhat problematic,” Emersyn said. 

For one student, the road conditions during the second snowstorm led to a car accident. 

“I had trouble getting to class because of the roads and ended up in a fender bender,” said Danielle Salas, a medical laboratory technology major.

When the college is closed due to weather issues, AC uses a system called “AC Alert” that notifies students and staff through phone calls, text messages and email.

“AC did a good job alerting me on the cancellation of classes,” Cecilia Mendoza, a visual arts major, said.

Salas, however, did not receive the alert, though she said she has received AC Alerts in the past. 

“A guy in my class didn’t get it and showed up for class,” she said.

Alerts also went out to numerous former AC students and staff members who had not opted out of the AC Alert system when they left the college.

Former employee Kara Larkin Skinner posted on Facebook, “My former employer is so conscientious that they called me twice yesterday to let me know they’re closed due to snow. It was a good laugh, until they woke me up at 11 p.m. calling me again. It’s been seven years. I live 500 miles away.” 

Wyatt said the system isn’t engineered to determine who the alerts should reach. If there are students who no longer attend AC, but are still in the AC database, chances are they will receive these alerts. The same applies for former staff members.  Anyone who is receiving alerts that no longer wishes to receive them can do so by visiting actx.edu/emergency-preparedness to opt out, Wyatt said.

Most students said they enjoyed the unexpected day off from classes, but, in some courses, the cancellation has put them behind schedule.

“My speech class had to cut out an entire speech. We were only doing three, so now we’re doing two because we ended up being so behind from the snow,” McDonald-Pate said.

“My statistics class had to cram three lectures into one night, and the exam for my physics class got postponed,” Trang Doan, a biology major, said.

Other classes were not affected.

“Based on my classes, missing a day did not affect them because my instructors had planned ahead,” Mendoza said.

Wyatt said that regardless of whether the campus is closed, students must use their own judgment about traveling to campus.

“We always tell people please make your own decision based on where you live and what your situation is because, while you at your house you may get a foot of snow, at my house I may get an inch of snow.”

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