ND, Minn. governors leave school closing decisions to local districts as deep freeze nears
FARGO — The governors of North Dakota and Minnesota are deferring to local school districts' decisions about whether to cancel classes as the region is about to plunge into a deep freeze with dangerous wind chills.
“Each of our North Dakota school districts is different, and our local superintendents are in the best position to judge whether it is appropriate to hold classes on days when the weather is snowy or extremely cold,” Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s state superintendent, said in a statement on Monday, Jan. 28.
“Our schools across the state are evaluating this new cold snap according to their local weather conditions, and that is how it should be,” she said. In a joint statement with Gov. Doug Burgum, Baesler supported the judgment of local school administrators.
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz also is deferring to local decisions about whether to cancel school, as the region girds for extreme cold and wind chills that forecasters expect will exceed 50 below zero in many areas early Wednesday.
“No matter how resilient the people of Minnesota may be, this weather should be taken seriously,” Walz said in a statement. “Parents and students should pay close attention to the local news and messages from their local school district for information on school closures. All Minnesotans should make plans to stay safe.”
Minnesota schools have only been canceled statewide by the governor once in the last 20 years, according to Walz's office. In 2014, then-Gov. Mark Dayton canceled school statewide.
School districts are required to have storm days “built in” to their calendars, Baesler said.
In Fargo-Moorhead, school superintendents are monitoring the weather. West Fargo and Fargo public schools expect to decide Tuesday whether to close schools Wednesday, when the high temperature in Fargo is predicted to be 20 below and wind chills could reach 55 below, according to the National Weather Service.
The West Fargo School District has used 40 below, as an air temperature or wind chill, as an informal guideline in deciding whether to cancel school due to extreme cold, said district spokeswoman Heather Leas. In Moorhead, 50 below is an informal temperature guideline.
Fargo does not have any guidelines for cancelling classes due to extreme weather, said district spokeswoman AnnMarie Campbell.
"We take it case by case and see what those circumstances are," she said. "We are watching this weather and consulting with meteorologists."
Moorhead Area Public Schools expect to make a decision Monday night, district spokeswoman Pam Gibb said.