Unusually chilly weather has kept many children home from school for four days so far this month. Tuesday’s forecast is showing even colder conditions, prompting some schools to remain closed for a fifth day.
Many school districts cancelled classes Monday due to strong wind gusts Sunday – up to 60 mph reported in Redwood Falls – that continued through the night as temperatures dropped, creating dangerous wind chill values.
Tuesday isn't bringing any relief.
According to the National Weather Service, the entire state (excluding Rock County, the southwest corner of the state) is under a wind chill warning until midday Tuesday. Although the wind gusts won't be nearly as strong as Sunday, wind chills are expected to range from 35 to 55 degrees below zero.
Since some areas will feel even cooler on Tuesday than Monday, many school districts are inclined to cancel classes for the second day in a row.
"Schools are kind of in a box," WCCO's Jason DeRusha noted.
While it can be frustrating for parents who have to miss work or arrange for child care, school administrators say the closures will keep kids safe.
“We have students that walk up to a mile to school, and for a little first- or second-grader that’s probably at least a 15- to 20-minute walk. And kids wait for the bus for up to 10 minutes," Mary Olson, a spokeswoman for the Anoka-Hennepin School District told the Star Tribune. "We just don’t want to risk students having frostbite.”
This is no ordinary January. It's on track to be one of the top five coldest Januarys in 30 years, but the number of school closings is highly unusual.
Olson told WCCO that the Anoka-Hennepin district has never closed more than twice in the last three decades.
Ruth Dunn, a spokeswoman for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District says "Two [canceled days] would be rare. But four? It’s really a disruption to families’ schedules."
Chris Voss, whose children attend a Minneapolis montessori that closes in tandem with the school district, questions whether the closures are necessary.
“I’m trying to figure out if this weather is really extraordinary or if we’ve become more sensitive as a culture,” Voss told the Star Tribune. “The whole reason for day care is so that we can work, so this is very disruptive to our professional lives.”
Three weeks ago, Gov. Mark Dayton ordered all public schools to close due to extreme cold – the first time for a governor to do so since 1997.
Many Twin Cities school districts are considering adding makeup days by cutting spring breaks short or adding on to the end of the school year in June. The decision will vary by district.