Freezing temps. lead Dayton to cancel school statewide Monday

Gov. Mark Dayton extended winter break for students across Minnesota this morning.

Dayton announced that all public K-12 schools will be closed statewide Monday, Jan. 6. All classes and activities are canceled.

Extreme cold, a high of -15 degrees and windchills potentially dipping as low as -50 degrees throughout the state, puts students at risk.

Being outside in such extreme temperatures can lead to frostbite in less than 10 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

“The safety of Minnesota’s schoolchildren must be our first priority,” Dayton said in a press release, issued just before 11 a.m. “I have made this decision to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures now forecasted for next Monday. I encourage Minnesotans of all ages to exercise caution in these extreme weather conditions.”

Minnesota’s governors have rarely asserted their authority to “authorize the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities or order schools closed,” as Minnesota statutes allow.

The last time the state ordered school closings was 1997, when Gov. Arne Carlson called off school for extreme cold one January day. During the 1990s, Carlson closed schools three times.

“It’s fairly uncommon,” Anoka-Hennepin District 11 Communication Specialist Derrick Williams said.

Individual districts monitor the weather closely.

Anoka-Hennepin uses the National Weather Service’s Windchill Chart to determine whether temperatures are too cold to hold classes. If frostbite is a possibility in 10 minutes or less, school is canceled, district policy states.

“We don’t think it’s reasonable to expect kids to walk to school in less than 10 minutes or wait for the bus for less than 10 minutes,” Williams said. “Student safety is our number one priority.”

The district is monitoring Tuesday’s predicted temperatures closely.

“The forecast for Tuesday morning is brutally cold as well,” Williams said.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]