Cancel or not to cancel? Facing frigid temps, schools grapple with question

With tonight shaping up to be one of the coldest nights Minnesota will experience this winter, Twin Cities school districts are confronted with the difficult question or whether or not to cancel class.

Some districts have general guidelines -- for instance, Minneapolis says class will be canceled if wind chills hit 35 below (the district has already decided to cancel class tomorrow), while St.Paul's standard is 40 below. But many districts play things by ear.

Officials at Good Times Park, a 25,000 square foot indoor playground in Eagan, say that bitter cold is a bonus for their bottom line, as the facility fills up with kids every time area schools shut down.

But Good Times' owner, Bonnie O'Meara, is also a parent, so she has mixed feelings.

"I want my own kids to go to school, but it'd be great to have the place filled tomorrow," she says.

School districts don't want to endanger kids waiting in the cold at bus stops, but also don't want to make life difficult for parents if they don't absolutely have to.

Eden Prairie schools have set an 8 p.m. deadline to make a decision in hope that'll give parents enough time to plan ahead, but like a lot of districts, in most cases officials there make cancellation decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Schools felt some backlash last year from metro-area parents who felt they cancelled too easily, especially when schools up north didn't.

Jaclyn Swords, spokesperson for Eden Prairie schools, says, "We take many factors into consideration. Are buses going to run? Walkers, those waiting at the bus stop, what's the amount of time they could get frostbite potentially."

"It's not an easy decision for districts to have to make the decision to close school," she adds. "It's probably our least favorite thing to do."

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