The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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Local News

January 31, 2013

Walking students a factor in school closure

Wind chills lead to decision

MANKATO — The bitter wind certainly was to blame Thursday for a number of school districts in the area starting classes two hours late, wanting to give the sun and temperatures a chance to rise.

Mankato Area Public Schools, on the other hand, decided to close for the day. Supt. Sheri Allen said that’s because of the district’s high number of students who walk to school.

“We’ve got over 3,400 walkers,” Allen said. “I know the potential of just this wind chill. And it wasn’t going to get better.”

Allen said she always tries to make the call for canceling school or starting late before 6 a.m., which was the case Thursday. She said she didn’t make the call Wednesday night because temperatures were still above zero and the winds had yet to pick up. Also, she said, forecasts don’t always pan out, and whenever possible, it’s important kids be in school.

Early Thursday morning the temperature was -8 and the forecast showed the temperature with wind chill dropping after sunrise, she said. And the National Weather Service wind chill chart showed the district in a wind chill warning. So she made the call to close.

“That’s a lot different than an advisory,” Allen said.

Meanwhile, in St. Peter, Supt. Jeff Olson said part of his district was in a wind chill advisory and part was in a wind chill warning. When making the decision to start two hours late, Olson said he referenced a frostbite-danger chart. If the danger of frostbite is 30 minutes or greater, he opens school.

Some students in the St. Peter district get on the bus as early as 6:35 a.m. when it’s still dark, so starting two hours late seemed appropriate.

“It’s a really difficult decision,” Olson said. “At the end of the day, we all try to act on the safety of our students first and foremost.”

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