As the weather turns colder, we often receive a number of calls and emails with questions from staff, families, and the media about possible school closings due to extreme cold. Student safety is always at the forefront of our decision-making at school. We balance this with realizing we live in Minnesota, have school during winter months that contain extremely cold/challenging weather, and that ultimately, parents have the opportunity to choose whether their children should attend school on any given day. School closing decisions are rarely easy, and require much communication between district, transportation, and city/county officials, along with weather experts.
In school districts throughout Minnesota, decisions are based on information provided by many sources, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.). The N.O.A.A. provides a Wind Chill Chart (You can find this chart at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/winter/windchill-images/windchillchart3.pdf) that takes into account the combination of wind speed and temperature to determine the time in which it will take someone to potentially suffer from frostbite. When the combination of temperatures and wind speed fall into the 5 Minute Threshold, school districts typically delay or close schools. When temperatures and wind speed fall into the 10 Minute Threshold, school districts sometime delay or close schools depending on additional variables such as transportation routes (i.e. suburban/rural), predicted temperatures throughout the day and/or week, how close the temperature/wind chill is to the "5 minute" Threshold, reliability of buses, etc.
We continually monitor the weather closely, but we do not usually make any final decisions about delaying and/or closing school until morning. We realize people like to know the evening before if we are having school or not, and we always attempt to make the decisions as early as possible. However, weather forecasters are not always accurate and weather frequently changes. At times, the hype from the weather forecasters is far worse than what ultimately becomes reality. For this reason, when deciding school closings due to weather, we often wait to make the most accurate decision; sometimes this can be done the night before, but many times we need to wait until early morning.
Fortunately, our School Messenger System has been a great communication tool for families and allows us to communicate important information as soon as a decision is made. You can also receive updates via our website and Facebook page.