Palm Beach County’s public schools and area colleges have canceled after-school activities Wednesday and will close all campuses Thursday and Friday in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew.
Eight public schools will act as emergency shelters beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Martin and St. Lucie counties will release students early on Wednesday, while Palm Beach County schools will complete a regular day.
Public schools in Broward and Miami-Dade counties will also have a regular day of classes Wednesday.
While public school classes will end at normal times in Palm Beach County, principals have been instructed to give excused absences to students who miss class Wednesday as a result of family storm preparations.
The school district’s announcement was delivered Tuesday afternoon by Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa, who said that school activities will also be canceled on Saturday and Sunday.
The move will disrupt more than a dozen football games, along with girls volleyball, boys and girls golf, bowling, swimming and cross-country competitions.
Also cancelled: homecoming events at several high schools, including Forest Hill, Dwyer and Seminole Ridge high schools.
“Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t call and ask us if this was a good time,” Avossa said.
Several private schools have announced plans to close Thursday and Friday as well. Among them: The Greene School in West Palm Beach and Spanish River Christian School in Boca Raton.
Local colleges and universities are also moving to cancel classes later this week.
Florida Atlantic University has cancelled classes after 3 p.m. Wednesday and for all day Thursday and Friday. Dorms will remain open.
All non-athletic events at FAU are canceled through Sunday, but athletic teams will determine whether to proceed on a case-by-case basis.
Palm Beach Atlantic University has canceled classes for Thursday and Friday. Daytime classes on Wednesday will continue, but evening classes are canceled, the school said.
In Palm Beach County’s public schools, no school events tonight are being cancelled as a result of the approaching hurricane, but standard rain and weather delays could still develop.
Several teachers said they were upset that they would have to work a regular schedule Wednesday, saying it would make it difficult for them to make necessary storm preparations.
“Why is it that Martin, St.Lucie and Indian River counties have the sense to close schools early tomorrow?” one teacher asked Avossa on Twitter. “And yet Palm Beach County will stay open all day? No consideration for your teachers?”
Teachers union president Kathi Gundlach said that she supported the decision to keep schools open all day.
“It’s a sound choice,” Gundlach said, explaining that a half-day for the entire district would be logistically difficult.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said that the county will open 10 emergency shelters beginning Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Those shelters will include: Atlantic High School, Boynton Beach High School, Lakeshore Middle School, Forest Hill High School, Pahokee Middle/Senior High School, Palm Beach Central High School, Palm Beach Gardens High School, Park Vista High School.
A pet-friendly shelter will open at 2 p.m. at West Boynton Recreation Center.
More shelters could be opened if the storm takes a harder turn toward the county or is projected to strengthen.
“These things change,” she said. “These are all predictions.”