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Why Kanawha schools closed and what might happen next

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nasty weather and power outages kept Kanawha County schools closed for a second straight day Wednesday, Superintendent Ron Duerring said.

"As we were assessing the situation it appeared that one out of every four schools was out of power," Duerring said Wednesday afternoon.

Moisture in the air from Hurricane Sandy mixed with cold air Tuesday to dump heaps of snow on West Virginia. Roughly 10 inches fell in the Charleston area, more than triple the previous record for a single day in October.

Those conditions led to Kanawha and about 40 other counties across the state closing or delaying school Tuesday. As local officials began to look at what to do for Wednesday, Duerring said they determined the widespread outages would affect too many children.

Officials considered opening some schools while leaving others closed. Duerring, who has been superintendent for about 15 years, could remember only one time when that was done.

That plan could be put into action, however, because officials still aren't sure when all of the county's schools will have power restored.

"It could be that some of these schools don't go on for days," Duerring said.

In cases of extreme weather, school officials start meeting as early as 3 a.m. to discuss whether to cancel classes. George Beckett, director of transportation, has people go out and check road conditions, and other officials talk with the Division of Highways and the weather bureau, Duerring said.

If conditions are expected to improve later in the morning, officials will opt for a two-hour delay.

But with many students living in rural areas, any word that county roads haven't been plowed or salted could lead to a snow day.

Duerring, Beckett and Maintenance Director Terry Hollandsworth met with other school officials to discuss how to handle closures moving forward. No decision was made as of late Wednesday afternoon, and Hollandsworth said there's nothing the school system can do about restoring power.

"I don't have any projection at all as to when power will be restored to these schools," Beckett said.

At least seven schools that did not have power early Wednesday were up and running by the afternoon, Beckett said. But schools in other areas, particularly in South Hills and Sissonville, remained without electricity. 

"The road conditions are going to be good; the weather conditions are going to be OK," Beckett said. "I think it all boils down to the power."

Several colleges and universities also lost power Tuesday. The University of Charleston lost power in all of its dorms, but the lights came back on about 10:30 p.m., spokesman Scott Castleman said. UC held a movie night in its School of Pharmacy building, and Castleman thought the students made the most of their time without power.

Davis & Elkins College went all night without power, but spokeswoman Carol Shuler said spirits were still high. Many students participated in a school-coordinated square dance and slept in their dorms despite the fact that none of the buildings had power, she said.

Classes are scheduled to resume today at UC and most other colleges affected by the storm.

Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said officials expected elementary and secondary schools to reopen in most counties today.

As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, 16 counties had closed all or some of their schools for today. For up-to-date information, go online to

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or Follow him at

Closed schools

The following Kanawha County schools had full or partial power outages on Wednesday morning:

1. Albans Elementary

2. Alum Creek Elementary

3. Flynn Elementary

4. Sissonville Elementary

5. Holz Elementary

6. Overbrook Elementary

7. Clendenin Elementary

8. Lakewood Elementary

9. Marmet Elementary

10. Richmond Elementary

11. Watts Elementary

12. Sissonville Middle

13. Hayes Middle

14. John Adams Middle

15. Sissonville High

16. George Washington High

17. Herbert Hoover High


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