Skip to main content

Schools scramble on 'wind chill days': How do they make the call?

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Bitter cold is back in the forecast for Monday, but school officials have not leapt to cancel school, FOX 9 reports.

At least not yet.

There's a lot at stake with these decisions. Parents face last-minute scrambles to make child care arrangements. Teachers and families have to rework busy schedules. Depending on contracts, some support staff – secretaries, bus drivers, custodians – don't get paid when school is canceled.

And district officials across the state are now mulling whether they might have to add more school days in June, the Star Tribune reports.

The state requires a certain amount of instruction hours for students each year, which roughly amounts to 170 days in most districts, the Star Tribune reports. So most districts build a few bad-weather makeup days into the calendar. Stillwater schools on Thursday were among the districts that hit their limit – any more canceled days have to be made up at the end of the year, the Star Tribune reports.

Even in districts with more "extra days," leaders and teachers are wincing at the idea of canceling another day. They carefully map out academic calendars, and they say precious learning time is lost for each canceled day.

There have already been three days of canceled schools in most of the metro this month – and Monday has an expected low of minus 20 in the metro, and even colder in the north. Then there's usually-frigid February, followed by March – which in some years has been the snowiest month in Minnesota.

School officials know that no matter what they decide in advance of a bad-weather day, some parents will be irked.

"Some people sit back and say, 'It's only 30 below, it's Minnesota; we've got to do our business,'" Superintendent Sherri Broderius in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City district told MPR News. She canceled school one day this week due to a blizzard, then called for a two-hour delay due to wind chill the next day.

How do district officials make the call?

In the end, district leaders have to think about the safety of thousands of students trying to make their way to school, some walking or standing at bus stops.

"Once it gets to a certain wind chill and air temperature chill, the children are in physical danger," St. Paul schools spokeswoman Julie Schultz Brown told MPR. "It's just too dangerous to put it to chance for a young child."

FOX 9 reports that when dangerous weather looms, Minnesota district superintendents focus on questions that include:

– What are the chances of frostbite?
– Are roads too icy?
– Will school buses run reliably?

WCCO spent some time with Minnetonka Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Peterson, who in 12 years had not canceled school due to cold – until this school year.

He told WCCO that he and other district leaders pore over detailed weather forecasts and National Weather Service charts together, carefully consider how the district's diesel buses will perform, and nervously eye what the wind chill will be for students.

“I think we kind of look at around 40 below,” he told WCCO.

Typically, he'll wait until about 12 hours before school starts to get the surest forecast, he said.

Next Up

Trevor Scott May

Driver ejected in fatal Roseville crash identified as 30-year-old

The crash temporarily shutdown westbound Highway 36.


1 dead, 2 injured in crash at intersection in Ramsey

The crash happened at the intersection of Bunker Lake Blvd. and Sunfish Lake Blvd.

Tettegouche State Park bridge

Trails reopen as waters subside, but bridges damaged at Tettegouche State Park

Water levels on the river have dropped about six to eight feet since Friday.

Keith Harvell

Body pulled from Mississippi River ID'd as missing Elk River man

Keith Harvell had been missing since early last month.

900 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota - July 2021

2 victims identified in double-fatal north Minneapolis shooting

A 21-year-old man and a 51-year-old man were identified as the people who died at the scene this past weekend.

Proctor football

Former Proctor HS football player pleads guilty to sexual assault of teammate

The case will also remain in juvenile court, with conditions.

Doug Wardlow

Doug Wardlow reneges on promise, will challenge GOP's AG candidate in primary

Wardlow's announcement sparked swift criticism from the MN GOP and the party-endorsed candidate, Jim Schultz.

Flickr - welcome to minnesota sign - Tony Webster

US News '150 Best Places to Live' features 1 from MN, 3 from WI

The latest US News list is for the most populous metro areas only, so no small towns.


7 tornadoes touched down last week in western MN, ND

Two of the seven were EF-2 level tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.


Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, May 17

72 hours of case data reported over the weekend is included in Tuesday updates.