With another big chill predicted, MPS keeping close eye on forecast

MARSHALL – Gov. Mark Dayton so far hasn’t made another call to cancel school statewide because of pending below-zero temps forecast for Monday, and Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert said Friday the school district is keeping a close eye on the forecast.

“We are monitoring what’s going on,” Willert said. “One of the things we learned this past week is that the forecast is nothing more than a projection – sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong.”

Willert said district officials are not yet to the point where they’re speculating on making a decision about Monday one way or the other yet. He said variables like windchill values and how much snow is predicted to fall – and blow around in the country – play into the final decision to cancel school.

“We don’t have any necessarily hard and fast rules that if it’s this many degrees then this is what we’re going to do,” he said. “We will look at some windchill charts that are out there; the Minnesota State High School League has a chart that shows windchills, so that weighs into our decision.”

Earlier this month, Dayton made the decision to cancel all public schools for Jan. 4 when windchills were predicted to fall to 50 below zero in the southern part of the state.

This time around, the National Weather Service is calling for overnight temperatures Sunday to fall to 16 below zero and a high of 8 below zero Monday. The NWS is predicting blowing snow Sunday night and “blustery” conditions Monday.

“I would like to say there’s a hard and fast science to it, but there really isn’t,” Willert said about canceling school. “There are so many variables that weigh into our decision. I do rely upon input from our transportation provider as much as my own assessment and the assessment of my director of business services so we make the best-informed decision possible.”

Willert said the school district errs on the side of student safety but knows not everyone will agree with any particular decision. He said the district provides options for parents who want to keep their children at home as a fallback and that that decision is without consequence to the student.

Willert also said no notifications are made after 10 p.m. If weather conditions worsen after that time, he said the district tries to notify parents early enough so they can make the necessary plans for their children – “not too early but early enough,” so parents can make the necessary adjustments to their schedule.