Grand Rapids Community College alerted students at 12:45 p.m. that classes and activities beginning 3 p.m. or later were canceled due to inclement weather.
The decision came from the college after the icy conditions this morning made for a hazardous commute for students. Students were slipping and sliding on their way to class, but morning classes were not canceled due to the road conditions.
Because driving conditions worsened throughout the morning, the college decided later on in the school day to close classes mid-day stated GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray.
“Safety of GRCC students and employees is a top priority, and administrators work with available information when a decision is made to cancel classes,” Murray stated in an email to The Collegiate after the school’s decision to cancel classes and activities after 3 p.m. “This morning, conditions significantly deteriorated as the morning commute progressed, and college leaders communicated to students and employees urging caution and patience.
“Staff continued to monitor weather conditions during the morning. In the interest of safety, campus leaders determined to cancel afternoon and evening classes, and quickly communicated that message to students and employees.
“We know that GRCC serves students from across the region, and conditions vary across West Michigan. We want our students and employees to be safe, and always urge them to use best judgment when traveling to campus.”
The decision to close campus is one that requires more than one person’s report of the weather, and the college’s policies are considered before making the choice. GRCC Police Chief Rebecca Whitman explained the college’s decision not to close the campus.
“We consider all factors when we decide whether we’re going to open or close,” Whitman said. “We do not want to cancel classes if we do not absolutely have to. Students are paying for these classes. Each class has to have a certain number of contact hours for the credit to exist.”
Safety is the biggest factor when considering whether or not to close the campus, but college administrators take into account police recommendations, area schools and other factors before deciding.
“Keeping the safety of our students, staff and faculty in mind, we take into consideration whether or not the conditions are worsening or whether they’re improving when we have to make a decision and we have a time constraint,” Whitman said. “We need to make decisions in the morning by 5:30 a.m. That’s what is in our policy.
“We take into consideration our… local and state police agencies advising to stay off the roads,” Whitman said. “If they’re not advising people to stay off the roads, we may be less likely to close. If they’re saying be cautious, take your time, give extra time for arrival, we expect that our driving population would heed that warning.”
As for reports of falls on campus this morning, campus police has received some so far even though salt has been spread throughout roads, sidewalks and parking ramps.
“We’ve had a few,” Whitman said. “I’ve seen several people falling whether it’s here on campus (or not). All of the ones I’ve seen are close to the curb or close to the intersection like where they’re going from the street to the curbs.”
However, Whitman assures GRCC facilities staff are aware of the conditions and are taking steps to keep up with the ice around campus.
“The streets are being salted,” Whitman said. “All of our sidewalks are salted. I saw our grounds crew this morning. They’re doing a fabulous job trying to keep up on the top of the parking ramps and on the sidewalks. The areas that are most dangerous right now are right at the edge of the streets where people are getting in and out of their cars or stepping from the street onto the main sidewalk path.”
Whitman offered some advice for students heading to campus today while there are still icy roads, sidewalks and walkways.
“Be cautious, driving here be very cautious on the side roads,” Whitman said. “Side roads, driveways, parking lots, those areas that have not been salt treated yet are going to be the most dangerous… Walk slow, pay attention to where (you’re) walking, wear sensible shoes.”
Kent County Road Commissioner Maura Lamoreaux warned The Collegiate the efforts of road crews aren’t effective in these conditions.
“Salt is not working because of the freezing rain, even roads already treated will freeze,” Lamoreaux said.
GRCC students reported their conditions getting to campus and what their commutes were like this morning heading to campus. Alice Uwingaloire, 19, an international student native to Congo, Africa, reported she “almost died” on her way to class.
“I was on Fountain Street, and my car turned,” Uwingaloire said. “I was screaming it was so bad.”
Alyssa Zeigler, 19, of Lake Odessa, Michigan, had a longer commute to campus and was taking extra care to make it safely to GRCC.
“I live 40 minutes away,” Zeigler said. “I was driving, and I got off the freeway. I started to swerve, I was sideways… I thought I was going to die. I feel like the school should’ve closed. I was waiting for my professor to cancel on Blackboard. A lot of people could’ve spun out and gotten in the hospital. It was a bad move.”
Collegiate reporters Lillian Linscott, Andrew Smith, Lisa Stapel and Matthew Scheidel contributed to this report.