It's just about that time of year again: Temperatures drop, kids bundle up, and then your children's school calls to cancel classes. For some parents, this can be an unwelcome surprise, requiring last-minute babysitters or late calls into work, and many find themselves wondering whether or not school can actually be canceled because of extreme cold. Unfortunately for those in colder climates, the answer is yes — once the thermometer drops past a certain point, schools can and do cancel classes.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there aren't national rules outlining when temperatures go from being "cold" to being "too cold" for school, and school districts will often hand authority over to principals to decide when to cancel classes due to extreme weather. What counts as extreme will vary from state to state as well, of course: As the AAP writes, "Students in northern Minnesota who can be expected to be dressed appropriately for cold weather may be sent out with the temperature at -15F, while students in Florida may be kept in when the temperature approaches 40-50F."
It's all up to the discretion of school superintendents, really. Several counties in Louisville, Kentucky will close school if temperatures hit 0 degrees F, while others will only consider closing if temperatures drop below -25 degrees F. However, even if schools remain open, some educators encourage parents to consider their children's readiness for the weather.
"Even in cold weather, parents need to make their own decisions," Bullitt County Schools superintendent Keith Davis told WAVE3 News last year. "If they feel it is too cold, then, within a certain parameter they can miss school if they have to. We don't encourage it because we encourage kids to be in school because that's where they learn."
According to Education World, during cold winters, educators will monitor upcoming storms, road conditions, and wind chill. They have to keep in mind various factors: Will buses be able to run, and run on time? Will students be able to wait outside for the bus safely? Does the school have contingency plans in place? Is it a bigger disruption to parents to delay starting times than to cancel school altogether for the day?
In other words, it's not a decision educators take lightly, and they have to consider the safety of all students when they make that call, regardless of whether a percentage of students will be able to arrive safely without waiting for a school bus outdoors.
Whether schools close or not, it's always important to know the right amount of layers kids should be wearing in the winter to stay warm (as much as they may complain about itchy wool or uncomfortable snowsuits, a la Randy from A Christmas Story). And if students do have a snow day — or, you know, a crazy massive hailstorm day — or two, it's for the best that students remain indoors, safe, and warm. Even if they might ricochet off the walls for an hour or two.