CCU’s decision to open puzzles some

01/30/2014 9:00 PM

01/30/2014 9:02 PM

Coastal Carolina University was a lone wolf Thursday, opening its doors when other educational entities, including neighboring Horry-Georgetown Technical College, opted to remain closed because of icy conditions.

CCU President David DeCenzo said he had been fielding calls from some parents who were unhappy with the decision to open with a two-hour delay, but that safety was the university’s primary concern, and students and employees had the option to stay home without penalty if they felt conditions were unsafe for them to report to campus.

“When you have almost 4,000 residential students, you just can’t keep the doors closed,” DeCenzo said, “but we were well aware that some may not feel it safe to go out, especially if they’re in some of the harder-hit areas.”

Other educational entities were more cautious about opening Thursday, citing continued low temperatures and icy roads, although temperatures are expected to rise by Friday.

HGTC is a commuter school and remained closed Thursday because of road conditions, but HGTC and CCU will operate on a regular schedule on Friday, opening at 8 a.m. CCU officials are urging caution, but they are reiterating that liberal leave will be authorized for staff with travel safety concerns, and students with travel concerns can arrange to make up class work by contacting their professors.

Horry County’s public schools, however, will remain closed for students Friday, although some district and school employees are being asked to report to work by 10 a.m. if they can. The closing decision was made because of the large amount of ice on driveways, parking lots and roads that is not melting, said Teal Harding, Horry County Schools spokeswoman, and conditions can vary across all nine attendance areas.

Georgetown County schools, however, will open with a two-hour delay for students and a one-hour delay for employees. All after-school activities will be held on their regular schedule.

April Turner, whose daughter Taylor is a senior at CCU, took issue with the university’s decision to open Thursday, saying it opened the door for people to get hurt while trying to reach campus. Turner, who lives in Nashville, said Taylor showed her the icy conditions via a mobile device, and they were too dangerous for anyone to be out on campus.

Taylor said the university had been unclear that student absences would be excused, and many students were asking about absences on Twitter because they are only allowed to miss a certain number of classes. She said there were only a handful of students in her first class, and the rest of her classes were canceled by her professors, but she said she saw some vehicle accidents, and some students were walking in the roads to avoid icy sidewalks.

Roads around campus were mainly clear, said David Roper, CCU’s chief of police, adding the university had asked the S.C. Department of Transportation to salt its roads, and that CCU personnel also had sanded and salted areas on campus.

DeCenzo said there was no pressure for anyone to put themselves at risk, and that CCU communicated with students and staff through email, Twitter and Facebook, with deans emailing their instructors and students being asked to contact their professors.

“Making good decisions is part of being in college,” DeCenzo said. “By all means, if you don’t feel safe, don’t come to campus.”

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