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Crews with Quam Construction of Willmar repair a broken water main Monday on Seventh Street Southwest near Kennedy Elementary School, which was closed due to the weather. The main broke due to the sub-zero temperatures moving across the area. Another main break was reported along Highway 12 in Willmar. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Schools close, pipes burst, roads a mess: Relentless cold snap grips region

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — Most area school districts are closed today due to brutal winter weather.

Gov. Mark Dayton had ordered schools to close on Monday because of bad road conditions and extreme cold temperatures and wind chill readings.

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Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius left the decision about today’s schools up to local districts.

By late afternoon Monday, area superintendents had made the call, and nearly all of them had decided to close school. A wind chill advisory from the National Weather Service is expected to expire at noon today.

The districts that had decided to stay closed another day included Willmar (including Community Christian), New London-Spicer, ACGC, BOLD, Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Clarkfield Area, Eden Valley-Watkins, MACCRAY, Montevideo, Paynesville, Renville County West and Yellow Medicine East.

Benson, Dawson-Boyd and Lac qui Parle Valley announced that they would be starting school two hours late.

Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said he had spent much of Monday morning talking with other superintendents about conditions in their areas.

His decision to close was based partly on the road conditions, and he also considered the safety of students in the cold weather.

Kjergaard said he also spoke with Willmar Bus Co. owner Ken Inselmann, who was concerned about the slippery roads, too. “Buses were sliding all over,” he said.

“This is the longest Christmas break I’ve ever had, two weeks and two days,” Kjergaard said. “We’re going to have school on Wednesday.”

New London-Spicer Superintendent Paul Carlson said the wind chill and icy roads were factors in closing school, but that would be the end of the unscheduled break for students. “Roads may not be much better on Wednesday, but it will not be as cold,” he said.

Sherri Broderius, superintendent at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City schools, explained her decision in an email interview.

“Wind chills up to 60 (below) are expected to remain in effect until noon. Also, road conditions continue to be treacherous due to the ice,” she wrote. “I decided to make the call now so families can make arrangements for their kids to be home. I don’t expect that anything will change with road conditions or temperatures if I wait until 5:30 tomorrow morning.”

Some factors in the decision were the very youngest students in the cold and young drivers navigating the icy roads. She and the district’s bus company also consider how the buses will fare in the outlying areas of the geographically large district

Broderius and Montevideo Superintendent Luther Heller said they felt most superintendents would have closed school Monday if Dayton hadn’t ordered them closed.

As for today, Heller said, “Our worst roads are to our east and south, where many of them are still very icy. A two hour late start was not going to help with the road conditions.” Many roads north and west of Montevideo were in better condition, he said.

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