The decision to call off school Tuesday was made nearly 12 hours before the winter storm was expected to hit Omaha with heavy snow and strong winds.
Several school district officials said that was the earliest decision they could recall in advance of a storm.
Various factors played into the decision, they said, including the consistency of the forecast and a desire to give parents time to make alternate plans for their children.
Superintendents in the metro Omaha area made the decision about 1 p.m. Monday after reviewing the latest forecasts.
The National Weather Service at the time was posting a winter storm warning for midnight tonight through 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Gretna Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Riley said meteorologists "haven't budged" on their forecast for heavy snow and blizzard conditions since they first began predicting the storm last week.
"They've been pretty adamant about this from the beginning, and their forecast hasn't changed much," Riley said. "I think the heaviest snow has inched a bit north, but that's about it."
The timing of the storm is also a factor.
The heaviest snow is forecast from 3 a.m. to noon Tuesday, possibly an inch of accumulation an hour, he said. That would mean heavy snow during the morning commute.
Riley said there is some concern that heavy wet snow could bring down power lines.
"And also parents need to know what to do tomorrow," he said. "I know they have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C all in their head, probably for the last four or five days. They like to know as soon as possible. And once we know that we're going to do it, it's important to do it."
Omaha Public Schools spokeswoman Monique Farmer said the early call allowed families to make alternate plans for work or child care.
"We've been getting questions about it since last week," she said. "We wanted to give people advance notice to make some plans for tomorrow."
Canceling school — and keeping dozens of school buses off snowy roads — should also aid the city of Omaha when it comes to snow removal and safety, Farmer said.
Most school personnel will be able to enjoy a snow day themselves, but senior-level staffers will still report to the Teacher Administrative Center Tuesday. Principals, custodians and anyone else involved with snow removal will report to individual schools.
Andy Rikli, superintendent of the Papillion-La Vista Community Schools, said several superintendents sat in on a national weather webinar Sunday, which reinforced for him that "this is going to be pretty ugly."
Superintendents try not to make the call too early, knowing that weather patterns can and do change quickly, he said. But they try to give parents time to adjust work schedules and make arrangements to take care of children, he said.
"We try to find that happy balance between not calling too early but giving parents enough time to figure out 'What am I doing with Johnny or Susie if school is canceled?’ " he said.
Papillion-La Vista has three snow days built into the schedule and hasn't used any.
"Had we already used three of our snow days, I think many of us would have, perhaps, been a little bit more conservative making the call," he said.
But having those days in reserve allowed for flexibility this time, he said.
Millard Superintendent Jim Sutfin said the consistent forecast was a key factor.
"What they're telling us is 6 to 10 (inches) with extremely windy conditions," he said.
By calling it early, teachers have some extra time to assign work for students and reschedule tests.
"The classroom teacher will be able to say, 'Remember that test we're having on Wednesday? We're still having it on Wednesday, so be ready," he said.
World-Herald staff writer Erin Duffy contributed to this report.