Who Makes Decisions on School Closures During Bad Weather?

HONOLULU (KHNL) - During bad weather, who decides whether a public school should be closed, and what factors play into that decision?

Pouring rain, falling trees. When is it enough to shut down Hawaii's public schools?

"The recommendation to close always initiates with the school principal, and it is taken on a school by school basis," Greg Knudsen, state Department of Education, said. "But the only person authorized to close the schools is the state superintendent."

This week's wild weather forced the closure of 90 of the state's 285 schools.

"Those other two-thirds of the schools were still in session, were still providing instruction to students," Knudsen said. "And that's important. That is our business."

One that many families count on, rain or shine.

"The teachers are concerned about what happens to the youngsters whose families are working," Joan Husted, Hawaii State Teachers Association, said. "Some people need the schools open."

During this wet and windy period, the union says it received a couple dozen inquiries from teachers on Maui, as well as along Oahu's Leeward coast, which was crippled by downed power poles.

"Is the DOE going to dock me a day's pay? Are they going to fire me because I didn't show up?" Husted said about some of the concerns. "And we've assured them that the DOE is not going to punish them because they couldn't get out of their driveway."

The DOE and the union say it's all about the comfort and safety of students and staff.

"We don't want anybody injured because of falling trees or, you know, little youngsters, Kindergarteners, being blown around," Husted said.

The DOE says schools can stay open without electricity, as long as they have water and are able to feed the students.