'Wrong call': Essexville-Hampton superintendent admits he should have closed schools

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ESSEXVILLE (WJRT) (1/12/2018) - More than 150 schools closed Friday as a winter storm dumped up to 6 inches of snow across Mid-Michigan.

Essexville-Hampton Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Cortez was not among those who closed their districts.

But he wishes he had a do-over.

"Unfortunately today, it was the wrong call," Cortex, admitted.

The rapidly deteriorating weather conditions made the decision to close or hold classes was especially tough for school administrators on Friday. A rain, ice and snow conversion took place between 5 and 7 a.m., when they have to make that crucial decision.

"It's a very tough call," Cortez said.

He spoke with other Bay County school leaders and his transportation staff before deciding to hold classes as scheduled.

"This morning at 5:30 in the morning, we were still getting rain," Cortez said. "It wasn't freezing up."

A short time later, all Bay County public schools, with the exception of Pinconning, decided to have classes. Cortez said weather forecasts at the time were still calling for about an inch of snow.

"The next thing I know, at 6:15, it's just unleashing snow and by 7:00 we had two inches," he said.

The decision to not close the school district did not sit well with everyone in the Essexville-Hampton district.

"I thought it was a little crazy," said parent Mike Bublitz. "The kids are driving around, they have their licenses and these roads are still not clear and they have to go home tonight."

A few hours after classes started, Cortez posted a letter on the school district's Facebook page, pretty much saying he made the wrong call.

"Next time, hopefully it will be the right call," he said.

Bublitz appreciated the superintendent writing the letter.

"That sends a clear message that he did wrong," Bublitz said.

Cortez said he and the other superintendents all think about safety first when making the decision to close.

"There is no way any one of us superintendents would ever make a decision to knowingly put kids into danger," he said.

Essexville-Hampton, along with most other school districts in Mid-Michigan, did cancel all activities after school Friday.

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