EL PASO, Texas - The borderland knows how to stay cool during extreme heat, but schools also maintain plans to keep students warm and safe during the winter season.
Officials with the El Paso Independent School District tell ABC-7 schools keep doors closed and keep students inside for recess and P.E classes. Thermostats are also adjusted according to individual schools and classrooms. Spokeswoman Melissa Martinez says the heating system is in place well before the temperatures begin to drop.
"The system luckily has been switched over, our facilities and maintenance people are very good at keeping a year-round schedule and so by October, they've already shut down all of our air conditioning systems which actually was a little bit of a detriment this year because it was warmer later than expected but in order to get through all of our buildings, they start in order in schedule and transition that over so all of our campuses now have heating," Martinez said.
Schools remained on a normal schedule besides snow flurries and cold temperatures Thursday. EPISD coordinates the night before severe weather in order to determine if classes will continue as scheduled. Martinez says several governmental agencies including TxDOT, city and county officials and representatives from each school district make up the Office of Emergency Management and collectively make a decision about closures.
"On nights like last night and days like today, our safe and secure schools manager will camp out at the Office of Emergency Management he watches all the data and watches what the experts, so they're monitoring roads overnight," Martinez said.
EPISD also maintains an emergency operations plan specifically for weather and have individual plans in place for delayed starts, canceling school and early releases.
"It's not just the active, it's snowing or raining or icy, they're looking at the road conditions and if the experts are telling us that there's no accumulation on the roadways and no ice on the roadways, then they're safe to travel," Martinez said.
EPISD's protocol is to make a decision by 5 A.M. in order to give parents enough time to adjust.
"A lot of parents may be looking out the window thinking it's snowing a lot, why haven't you called school yet? Because the roads are clear and that's the priority if the roads clear that means it's safe to travel and our belief is our kids are in school already, they're safer, they're warm in school, then to have them out in the streets, then having parents figure out what they're going to do with them if they're working parents we take that into consideration as well," Martinez said.
EPISD also advises parents to send students with a sweater and jacket so they stay warm throughout the entire day. They also recommend downloading EPISD's app and checking their parent portal for updates on closures and delays.
EPISD officials tell ABC-7 all outdoor after-school activities for Thursday have been canceled.