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Weather causing issues

By Staff | Feb 2, 2014

We like our cold weather bragging rights in Minnesota, but there is nothing to brag about when your skin can freeze at -50 wind chill in only five minutes.

The new year has seen frigid temperatures and windchills reach record heights.

The dangerously cold forecasts have triggered a round of three school closures at United South Central, one two-hour late start and one early dismissal, according to superintendent Jerry Jensen.

“I am the one who makes the final decision on emergency closings,” he explains. “I do, however, consult with our transportation people, police liaison officer, neighboring school districts and numerous weather forecast sources.”

According to Jensen, he will close down school if they feel they cannot safely run the bus routes and bring the students in.

Conditions causing that decision vary from impassible roads due to snow drifts, visibility issues due to snow/blowing snow, and or dangerous wind chills.

“The two-hour late start is typically used when conditions are expected to improve early in the day,” Jensen says. “Sometimes roads have been blocked due to a storm the previous day or night, and the townships need a couple of hours to plow the roads in the morning.”

Jensen elaborates sometimes the decision to have a two-hour late start is to ensure the bus drivers have the benefit of good daylight in case there are visibility concerns.

USC’s policy is to make up all days lost.

“We have already changed the calendar to have students attend on Feb. 14 and 17, days previously scheduled as a day students and staff were not attending,” Jensen says.

The superintendent believes the third day will be made up on April 21 (the Monday after Easter).

USC has also had to reschedule numerous amounts of sporting events.

“At USC, we reserve the right to make that decision around midday,” Jensen adds. “Sometimes, the conditions can improve significantly from when the early morning decision was made to close school.”

Blue Earth Area has also had three closures, but two two-hour late starts and an early dismissal as well.

Based on a Minnesota State Statute, 1-6 graders require 935 hours of instruction and 7-12 graders need at least 1,020 hours.

“The bare minimum is to have the kids be in school for a total of 165 days. The district has set aside 173 days,” superintendent Evan Gough says. “I am a little worried that we won’t hit our hours because it is only the end of January.”

At the next BEA School Board meeting, Gough will recommend that a snow day should be made up on Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 17.

“We don’t want our school year to extend too far into June,” he adds. “Two hour delays can add up as well. Overall, January has been a very tough month.”

Not only were the schools affected, but winter drivers have had some difficulties as well.

According to Faribault County chief deputy Scott Adams, there were 23 people who called 911 dispatch who needed assistance from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday Jan. 26.

“Our dispatch had way too many calls regarding roads and if they were even open,” he says. “Overall no one got hurt, but there were three vehicles in the ditch on Highway 16 because the roads were not visible.”