Hopkins schools parent Patty Gaslin Post on Thursday morning was thinking what many parents were thinking: With a wind chill in the 30s below zero, would there be school?
There was. But why?
The district has canceled classes five times this winter for bitterly cold weather, and Thursday morning seemed like more of the same.
"I'm not a proponent of canceling school by any means," Post told BringMeTheNews. "But as a parent, it was hard for us in January when we had all those days of schools closed. Now we're in February with similar temperatures and not even a late start. It just seemed very peculiar to me that this morning the cold was a non-issue."
Hopkins Superintendent John Schultz told BringMeTheNews that the five days schools were canceled for cold this year had even lower wind chills than Thursday morning. (One other day, last week, was canceled for snow.)
To make a decision, Schultz said Hopkins district officials carefully pore over National Weather Service wind-chill data when wind chill warnings are issued, and they make their best judgment call by 5 a.m. at the very latest, typically in consultation with neighboring district officials.
It's been a tough winter for Minnesota superintendents who are charged with keeping kids safe but also are wringing their hands over lost class time. (Here's more about what goes into the difficult decisions.)
"This is unprecedented," Schultz said of his district's six canceled school days. He added that district officials decided to make up school on four days previously scheduled as no-school days, three in February and one in May.
Post said she wonders if Gov. Mark Dayton did superintendents a disservice by closing schools statewide on Jan. 6, setting a benchmark and depriving superintendents of local authority to make the call for themselves.
State schools spokesman Josh Collins said the governor made the decision in large part because that Monday – the coldest of the year in many parts of the state – would have been the first day back for many districts after a holiday break. That meant that there was a high risk that buses would not fire up after so much time sitting in the cold. That could have left students stranded at bus stops in dangerous subzero wind chills, Collins said.
After Jan. 6, Dayton's message to superintendents was that canceling school for cold would be a local decision, Collins said.
"We certainly recognize that every superintendent has to make the difficult decision about what is right for their district," Collins said.