University model assists in weather-related campus closures


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By Justin Kelley

DeKALB — With winter weather approaching, now is the time for students and faculty to take a look at the policies and procedures the university takes regarding school closures. The university has several processes it takes to determine if the school will be closing.

Matt Streb, NIU chief of staff, is in charge of the school closure process and said the university takes a number of factors into consideration for school closures.

“We look at three things: one is the weather, how are the conditions on campus and then what are the road conditions for local roads, back roads and Interstates commuters use,” Streb said. “Because we have such large commuter populations, not only with our students but with our faculty and staff.”

The university uses different models and general information from the National Weather Service to decide school closures.

One of the models the university uses is the Winter Model for School Closures at Northern Illinois University. The model’s objective is to evaluate potential winter weather conditions as a means to assist in the university closure decision-making process.

The model is broken down into four major severe weather categories: temperature, wind, snow/sleet and freezing rain/ice accumulation. Each category is graded from zero to 100, with scores of 50-100 warranting discussion of school closure.

Scores at or above a score of 100 suggest school closure during that forecast time frame and should be recommended by the operational team to university leadership.

The university then has the option to accept or decline the model suggestion.

“We work with one of our meteorology professors and public safety, then we have the matrix and they will look at the weather conditions and we will get a score based on that matrix,” Streb said. “Pending on the score that might determine a school closure call or whether we close.” 

Streb said the university uses the models as a guideline, and it is not a guaranteed school closure.

“I want to be very clear, it is just a guideline though — there is not anything that says we hit a certain number, we close,” Streb said “There are weather events that will make it likely we will close but it is one thing we look at to try to evaluate the weather and conditions.”

Streb said when it comes to notifying the campus about closures, the announcement will vary on when the weather hits.

“We do our best to make decisions as early as possible in the process, but sometimes weather can change and sometimes decisions can’t be made as quickly as some people would like,” Streb said.

For more information on winter weather policies and school closure, visit NIU’s Human Resource page or