Late last week, school districts across the state made inclement weather plans, with many opting to go virtual instead of losing time in the classroom. 

Because of government actions in response to the Chinese coronavirus, the framework was already in place to easily transition in-person students to virtual classrooms.

That changed when historic low temperatures with snow and ice increased power demands on the Texas grid, freezing wind turbines and triggering rolling blackouts.

Texans began seeing power outages statewide on Monday, and by mid-afternoon on Tuesday, 4.1 million people were without power.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s power grid, has struggled to keep up with demand, making it difficult for Texans to heat their homes, much less worry about school.

Districts decided to cancel school, realizing hundreds of thousands of students online would only drain the power grid further, and many students may not even have electricity.

The Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) stated, “The Fort Worth ISD will close schools on Tuesday, February 16, and Wednesday, February 17, in response to continuing severe weather, the impact of rolling blackouts on our students and employees, as well as the tremendous demand being placed on our state’s energy resources. There will be no virtual instruction on either day.”

The Austin School District (AISD) is planning no school February 16-18, but Friday, February 19, will be an asynchronous learning day. AISD is planning on requesting a waiver from the state so students do not have to make up those days. 

The Garland Independent School District (GISD) cites power outages as the reason for closing their schools. The district made plans to be fully virtual, but it changed course due to the power outages. “The safety and security of our staff and students remain our top priority. Due to rolling power outages, all Garland ISD schools and offices will be closed Wednesday, Feb. 17. Virtual and face-to-face learning are canceled.”

If not for the power outages, schools would have been able to go on virtually. In ERCOT’s action—or inaction—the long-standing tradition of the snow day went on to live another winter.

If you need more information, please check with your local school districts.

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.