For many school districts, a decision to cancel school on Monday would be the fourth closing this month.
Minnesota has a case of the chronic cold.
Dangerous subzero temperatures and whipping winds just won’t let up, with another string of far-below-zero readings expected Sunday night through Tuesday, rivaling the deep freeze earlier this month.
The persistent cold puts this month on pace to be in the top five coldest Januarys in about the past three decades, sparking a rare number of school closings due to the cold.
Already, Winona and Rochester public schools have called off classes Monday because of windchills expected from minus-40 to minus-55. Other districts, such as Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina and Robbinsdale, plan to decide by Sunday night.
If they cancel, it will be the fourth time since Jan. 6.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ruth Dunn, the spokeswoman for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District. “Two [canceled days] would be rare. But four? It’s really a disruption to families’ schedules, but I think parents understand it’s for students’ safety.”
In a rare step, Gov. Mark Dayton shut down schools statewide Jan. 6 — the first time a governor had ordered schools to close since 1997. State leaders said it was for the safety of students during a 62-hour spell of subzero temps. Then, several schools canceled class the next day and again last Thursday.
Monday’s forecast is a bit of déjà vu.
Extreme wind, cold
The National Weather Service predicts temperatures could reach 20 below zero Monday but would feel much colder because of strong winds.
That’s about 30 degrees below the normal, meteorologist Tom Hultquist said. “That’s why it feels so extreme.”
If Minneapolis schools do close Monday and/or Tuesday, Minneapolis parks announced that recreation centers and Wirth Park tubing hill will open at noon.
Stillwater schools told parents that classes will be delayed or canceled when temperatures are predicted to fall to 20 below or colder, or a windchill of 40 below or colder. The school district reached its limit of snow days on Thursday and will have to add school days if Monday or any other days are canceled.
The state’s school districts can pad extra days into the calendar above the state-required minimum class days in case of unexpected closings, but once they tap out those days, school board members have to decide how to make up days later.
More school in June?
School leaders in Bloomington are already discussing whether to extend the school year in June, cut into spring break or change staff professional development days into school days. Spokesman Rick Kaufman said the district tries to accommodate families’ schedules, especially since they may have vacations planned in June but making up the class time is also important.
“This winter is a very unusual winter,” he said.
The school district is also discussing whether to cancel school on Tuesday. (Monday is a planned staff professional development day.) Tuesday’s weather forecast calls for winds to ease up, but it could still feel like 30 to 35 degrees below zero.
“Minnesotans are hardy folks,” Kaufman said. “But when … you’re looking at these kinds of temperatures, it’s dangerous for kids.”
The extreme cold may be wearing on even the most hardy Minnesotans, and Hultquist said there’s no sign of more normal winter temperatures in the next couple of weeks.
But even the bearers of bad news are looking for the bright side: Wednesday’s temperatures are expected in the teens.
“We aren’t going to break out the swimsuits,” Hultquist said. “But we’ll finally climb above zero.”
Staff writer Kim McGuire contributed to this report.
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141