Posted Wednesday, Feb. 14, 6:11 a.m.
Administrators pushed back the opening of the University until 10 a.m. Wednesday because of the icy weather in D.C. and the surrounding metropolitan area.
GW spokesperson Adela de la Torre said academic and business operations on all campuses will resume a normal schedule after that time. Classes starting before 10 a.m. Wednesday are therefore canceled.
The National Weather Service is reporting about two inches of wintry-mix precipitation – including snow, freezing rain and sleet – around the District, which has created dangerous travel conditions.
The University had canceled Tuesday’s classes starting at 5 p.m. or later because of the inclement weather. Many streets and sidewalks in Foggy Bottom were blanketed with a thin layer of ice and snow late Tuesday that remained in place early Wednesday.
Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said GW strives to remain fully operational throughout the school year.
“If the students are on campus – which they clearly are at this time – we make every effort to always be open,” Katz said in a telephone interview late Tuesday night. “We can’t always accomplish that, but … we make every effort to have the institution open.”
Katz and Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs, are the two administrators who make the final decisions about school closures and class cancellations. Teleconferences between 4 and 5 a.m. are typical on days when severe weather strikes the District.
University officials take many factors into account when determining the school’s status.
Weather and road conditions specific to the Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon and Virginia campuses all go into the administrators’ decision-making, Katz said. He explained that senior Facilities Department officials provide assessments of the quality of life at all GW property in and out of D.C. as well as the accessibility to the grounds.
“The kinds of things we look at are the conditions of all the campuses, and we look at them separately … We check on the conditions of the roads, if there are power outages and things like that,” Katz said.
Since many faculty and staff members commute to GW from Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, the closure of the Metro system is “a big factor,” Katz said. Officials also consider the statuses of the federal government, local schools and other universities.
The Metro system is fully operational, as of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, and the Office of Personnel Management is reporting a delayed work day for federal employees.
Out of the 17 years Katz has served in the GW administration, he said he only recalls the University shutting down about a half-dozen times. He said class cancellation – while rare overall – is much more likely than fully closing the school and not requiring employees to come work. Part of the reason, Katz explained, is that many of the services undergraduates living on campus need, such as dining service, would not be possible if a “liberal leave” policy were in effect for GW staff.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Washington and surrounding areas in Northern Virginia and Maryland early Tuesday morning. It is in effect until 2 p.m. Wednesday. The large weather system over North Carolina moved toward the D.C. area late Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service.
Rain has turned into sleet as the ground temperatures fell below 32 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday afternoon. One-half to three-quarters of an inch of ice are expected in the area, according to the National Weather Service, which described the ice storm as the worst since January 1999. Winds were reported at about 20 miles per hours early Wednesday morning.
“A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice are expected,” according to the advisory on the Weather Channel’s Web site. “Strong winds are also possible – especially on Wednesday. This will make travel very hazardous.”
The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority is reporting delays and cancellations at nearby airports across major carriers.
Stay with www.gwhatchet.com for further updates.