It’s cold: What does this mean for C-I Schools?

Dr. Ray Queener
Dr. Ray Queener

Dr. Ray Queener, superintendent
Cambridge-Isanti Schools

There is always a potential for severe weather warranting school closings during Minnesota winter months.  While this winter has been unique with severely cold temperatures affecting every school throughout the state, the decision to close or delay school is never easy.

One question that many people have is: How does the decision to close Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools get made?

First and foremost safety is always the priority when making the decision to hold school or not.

Many variables are considered in order to best ensure the safety of students and staff as we try to accommodate all the families in our district — unfortunately, it is not possible to make a decision that does this perfectly.

There are three broad considerations made when it comes to closing schools due to the weather.

1. Safe Travel: Can Students Get to and From School Safely?

Transportation is always a key issue when determining whether to close our schools. The ability for busses to safely and dependably transport students to and from school is determined in consultation with the Transportation Department and others. C-I schools have a much higher rate of students that take busses or are carpooled to school compared to Metro Area Schools that have a much higher population of student walkers. Typically this means that the transportation method for our students is safer during inclement weather in particular, cold weather, than it is for Metro Area students.

Therefore, the factors influencing C-I school closings are invariably different from other school districts, though we do communicate and consult with neighboring schools when necessary.

2. Predicting the Weather: It’s Not the Cold, It’s the Wind

Monitoring the radar about weather forecasts and road conditions is never completely predictable or exact but close watch is kept on these reports when there is a possibility of school closing. Based on these reports, a decision to close school may be made.

In the case of cold temperatures, the affect of sustained wind chills of 35-40 degrees below zero and greater become a significant factor when considering students who wait outside for busses or typically walk to school. Wind chill is a great predictor of such dangers as frostbite and hypothermia as it measures the heat loss from the body when exposed to it. In result, wind chill is more of a concern than actual temperature because it turns unpleasant cold weather into dangerous weather.

3. Keeping Students in School: Students Belong in the Classroom

The goal of our district is to give families the option of whether to send their children to school during severe weather due to snow or cold temperatures when possible. Some families face hardship when school is canceled, especially related to employment or day care. Families who choose not to send their children to school may do so without any penalty. Absences due to inclement weather will be excused — parents/guardians are asked to report their children’s absence if the decision is made to keep them home from school.

It is important to understand school closings that exceed the set calendar for our schools require make-up days in order to meet state requirements. More winter is coming, and further school closings may mean shortening holiday breaks. This would most likely affect spring break as adding instructional days in June is not the best viable option for student learning. After testing is completed, extending instructional days further into June may not advantage students. The consideration is to avoid having to make-up days and keep students in school to minimize the disruption of their learning.

Another factor affecting the scheduling of school make-up days is the scheduled summer construction at all schools which will require as much time as possible in order to ensure it is completed by the first day of the 2014-2015 school year.

The District is considering Monday, April 21 as a potential make-up instructional day for school closings that have already occurred. No decision on this day will be made until the school board meeting on Feb. 20. Families will be notified once a decision to amend the school calendar is made so that appropriate plans can be made.

It is the District’s intent to keep school open every school day possible during inclement weather. The decision to close schools will be announced with as much notice as possible via the parent/family emergency alert system, Skylert, and local news stations. You can also refer to the district website for further information on school closings.

We appreciate your patience and flexibility during this cold weather and hope this helps you understand the decision-making process for closing C-I schools.