Others’ Opinion: Dayton’s right – It’s too cold for school

Published 10:05 am Monday, January 6, 2014

Minnesotans boast that they’re tough enough to handle winter’s worst. But it will take smarts, not toughness, to survive the extreme cold that’s forecast for the next few days. That’s what Gov. Mark Dayton exhibited Friday when he canceled public school classes statewide on Monday. We join him in reminding Minnesotans of all ages to respect the weather.

During a similar cold spell 20 years ago this month, then-Gov. Arne Carlson made the same decision to close schools. He was criticized for trumping local control and denying kids the chance to experience a little winter hardship. It was as if some people thought that there might be an isolated warm spot in Worthington or Winona ­— or that they considered the loss of toes and fingers to frostbite (or worse) an acceptable school bus stop hazard.

This page defended Carlson then and agrees with Dayton’s decision now as record low temperatures are forecast for Monday in much of the state. As we said in 1994, closing schools when the cold becomes dangerous is “in keeping with the best of Minnesota’s winter tradition: When winter gets tough, tough Minnesotans get smart and take care of each other.”

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Brutal cold is arriving as winter break is ending in many school districts, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius noted. That timing figured in Dayton’s decision to act unilaterally rather than deferring to local officials. Superintendents who might otherwise have made a closure decision Friday may have been away. School buses in many places have been idle for two weeks and may not be reliable. Knowing Friday that schools are closed Monday gave some families a chance to extend their winter-break child care arrangements for another day.

One day might turn into a few more in some parts of the state. Cassellius indicated that Dayton prefers to let local school officials make the closing call on Tuesday and beyond. That seems reasonable, now that the governor has shown by prudent example what winter survival requires.

 —The Star Tribune