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Despite heavy snowfall, COCC remains open

Kirsteen Wolf
The Broadside

If your car was sliding around the Bend campus roads last week, you may have wondered why classes weren’t cancelled.
The policy on snow closures at Central Oregon Community College  might not make sense to some students, staff and faculty. With the recent return of winter weather, classes were delayed on March 1, there was a snowy day on Feb. 27—but the campus remained open—and on Jan. 17, slick conditions, traffic accidents and traffic congestion on campus resulted from a dump of snow. The college cancelled classes that afternoon.
On Monday Feb. 27, the campus was open but it had snowed early in the day. Weather reports hadn’t predicted the accumulation. There were five traffic accidents reported on that day according  to campus Public Safety and Security incident reports, On the snowy day on Jan 17, there were eight traffic accidents all involving multiple vehicles according to COCC incident reports.
“We couldn’t get [the snow] off the ground fast enough,” said Matt McCoy, vice president for Administration, said of that day. “I have not seen that since I’ve been here and that’s 14 years.”
Many are affected by the decision whether to close the college due to snowstorms and inclement weather. In severe weather when the campus is open, students, staff and faculty risk driving the roads to get to work and classes. Students who choose to stay home on days when the driving seems risky end up missing class.
On severe weather days when the campus remains open, Campus Public Safety and Security’s time is redirected.
“We essentially shift from patrol and prevention to responding to and triaging traffic control incidents and accidents, identifying areas needing attention… and clearing traffic congestion,” said Rob McDilda, head of Campus Public Safety and Security.
The decision to close, delay or stay open hits the desk of McCoy who, with input from other entities on campus, makes the call. McCoy usually knows the call by 5 a.m.  The decision affects both COCC and Oregon State University-Cascades.
The college’s philosophy is to keep the doors of the campus open unless the weather is severe and the conditions adverse to travel according to the COCC website. McCoy can decide to delay, cancel classes and keep the college open (library, computer lab, gymnasium and offices are open and staffed) or close the entire college. All four campuses are assessed individually.
“It’s very rare that we close,” he said.

(contact at kwolf@cocc.edu)

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