When snow flies, schools work to keep kids safe

Published 9:37 am Saturday, March 3, 2018

By David Krenz

Austin Public School Superintendent

Winter in Minnesota means blustery winds, freezing temperatures, and lots (and lots) of snow. Inclement weather can have many effects on our schools, from closures and delays to indoor recess and slippery sidewalks. Through it all, the most important factor when making weather-related decisions is what’s safest for Austin Public Schools’ students and staff.

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For many families, one of the most pressing questions when the temperature plummets and snow is in the forecast is whether there will be school. Here in Austin, as in most communities, many factors go into the decision to delay, release early, or close schools entirely. When a winter storm is looming, we begin receiving announcements and timely updates from NOAA — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This information provides us with temperature, precipitation, and storm track forecasts. We also review road conditions with city and county road crews as well as our bus contractor, and consider MnDOT reporting.

After looking at all the information, we determine what we feel is safest for Austin Public Schools’ students and staff. While we try to make the best decision possible for the safety of all, sometimes parents might have a different perspective. It is, of course, always within the parent’s prerogative to keep their student home if they feel it is safer in this situation.

Student and staff safety continues to be a priority even when schools remain open. At the elementary level, students will automatically have indoor recess if the temperature is below zero or the wind chill is below minus 15 degrees. It is vitally important that students be sent to school with appropriate winter weather gear, including coats, gloves, and hats.

Our buildings and grounds crews work tirelessly to clear sidewalks and parking lots throughout the day, though we do encourage our students and staff to do the “penguin shuffle” if there is ice present. While it is our goal to make sure sidewalks and other surfaces are clear of snow and ice, in the case of inclement weather, it might not always be perfect. Again, student and staff safety is paramount to Austin Public Schools, and we work hard to keep up with our dynamic Minnesota weather.

Winter can be a tough time in Minnesota, with high winds, freezing temperatures, and lots of precipitation. Inclement weather presents many challenges, and our goal is always to do what’s safest for our students and staff.