UPDATE, 10 p.m.: Palm Beach State College campuses will be closed Thursday through Sunday.
UPDATE, 6:15 p.m.: Florida Atlantic University canceled classes Wednesday through Sunday, but staff members are expected to be on campus Wednesday.
ORIGINAL STORY: Palm Beach County’s public schools will close Thursday and Friday as the region braces for Hurricane Irma.
The county school district announced the closures this afternoon, shortly after the public school districts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties made similar announcements.
The closures affect the county school district’s more than 180 school campuses from Jupiter to Boca Raton.
In a message on Twitter, the school district said that the closures were done “to allow PBC families to prepare” for the approaching Category 5 storm.
“While landfall is not expected until Sunday, we have a responsibility to ensure our personnel have ample time to prepare before tropical force winds arrive in the area,” Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa said in a statement.
All of the aftercare programs will be in operation until 6 p.m. Wednesday, but sports events and school meetings scheduled for Wednesday afternoon will be cancelled.
In a news conference this afternoon, Avossa said the school district is readying 15 school campuses for use as hurricane shelters, which together can house up to 50,000 people. County emergency managers decide when to open shelters, but Avossa said they should be ready to house people as early as Wednesday evening.
A fleet of school buses will also be at the ready for evacuations in the Glades region if water levels in Lake Okeechobee threaten the integrity of the dike.
While the county is not expected to feel any effects from Irma before Friday, Avossa said that it was critical to give families of the school district’s more than 22,000 employees time to prepare.
“I have an obligation to make sure those teachers and staff have time to prepare their families,” he said.
Check back for details to this breaking story.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: Palm Beach County School District Officials are watching the hurricane forecast closely but have not yet made the call regarding if and when schools would close. An announcement regarding closures is expected at 4 p.m. today.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho announced that school district is closing schools Thursday ahead of Hurricane Irma in an abundance of caution.
The Palm Beach County district works closely with the county’s emergency managers in making that call, spokeswoman Kathy Burstein said. Those emergency managers, including representatives from various emergency services, are due to talk to state officials in a conference call at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.
“As Hurricane Irma moves through the Atlantic Ocean, School District of Palm Beach County leaders are closely monitoring the storm and its track.
Any time severe weather affects Palm Beach County, the District works with emergency management officials, including the National Weather Service, to determine how school operations will be affected. Our top priority is to ensure the safety of our students, employees, volunteers and visitors.” – PBCSD statement regarding Hurricane Irma
Read full statement here.
When that call is made the information will be posted on the district’s website and phone calls home to parents. The message will also go out on social media. Follow the district on Twitter at @pbcsd and find it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pbcsd.
Check back with ExtraCredit for more details as they become available.
Follow Kimberly Miller on Twitter for the forecast at @KMillerWeather.