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Deb Kleven of Willmar is bundled up Thursday as she pumps gas at Little Dukes in Willmar. A cold front is moving across the area and likely will stick until the middle of next week. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Update: Arctic blast means no Minnesota public school classes Monday

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Update 1 p.m.

By Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- Frigid temperatures predicted for Monday led Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to cancel public school classes statewide for the first time since 1997, but local officials will make the decision if the cold snap continues into Tuesday.

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“The safety of Minnesota’s school children must be our first priority,” Dayton said Friday. “I have made this decision to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures now forecasted for next Monday. I encourage Minnesotans of all ages to exercise caution in these extreme weather conditions.”

"Our students are real happy," said Annandale Superintendent Steve Niklaus, whose students are among the few in Minnesota to be back in school Friday after a holiday break.

State Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said that the decision came because of a variety of factors that made Monday unique:

* More than 80 hours of bitterly cold weather is predicted in much of the state.

* Most schools remain on holiday break, making it more difficult for local schools to make the decision.

* Because of cold weather during the break, buses could be difficult to run after being parked for two weeks.

Cold temperatures are predicted to cover the entire region, so closing schools statewide makes sense, the commissioner said.

"This is a historic weather pattern," Cassellius said, with wind chills expected to be so cold that students waiting for a bus five or 10 minutes could suffer frostbite.

Cassellius said that weather seldom is the same across Minnesota, so a statewide closure usually is not needed.

"Typically weather patterns are very varied throughout the state," she said. "But we know with this one coming that the entire state will be blanketed with cold temperatures."

The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings for northwestern Minnesota tonight into Saturday, with snow, freezing rain and sleet likely for much of the rest of the state. But the big blow comes Monday, when highs of 15 below zero to 20 below zero are expected to combine with windy conditions across much of the state.

Overnight lows early next week could tip as low as 30 below, which Dayton's office reports will be the coldest temperatures in a decade.

The governor's office said the decision to close schools was announced today so school administrators, teachers and parents could make plans. The state Education Department reported it is coordinating with school districts throughout the day to notify the public about Monday’s school closings.

“Children's safety is always our top priority, and as a former superintendent, I know these are never easy calls,” Cassellius said.

Students at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system campuses across the state are to be continuing their winter break next week, so classes are not scheduled. University of Minnesota officials say they are monitoring the weather situation.

Dayton spokesman Bob Hume said that state officials are watching the weather, but as of this afternoon there were no plans to close state offices Monday.

Private schools make their own decisions about closing, but many usually close when public schools close because they use public school transportation systems.

All schools will decide whether to hold activities, but Cassellius said she expects most Monday activities to be canceled.

Dayton's decision only affects public school students. Each district will decide whether teachers and staff should work Monday.

Rochester school officials already had decided to close Monday, but most other schools were waiting to see updated forecasts.

State law gives the governor authority to order schools to close. In modern times, only Gov. Arne Carlson closed schools statewide, and he did it three times.

 

Update 11 a.m.: 

Gov. Dayton closes Minnesota's schools on Monday for cold

By Gretchen Schlosser

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton has announced that all of the state’s public schools will be closed on Monday to protect the children from the dangerously cold weather.

The announcement came this morning and the governor will host a press conference at noon with Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

The National Weather Service predicts that most of the state will experience the coldest temperatures in a decade on Monday, with lows reaching -30 degrees and wind chills predicted to reach as low as -50 degrees. High temperatures from International Falls to Rochester are forecasted to be only -15 degrees.

“The safety of Minnesota’s schoolchildren must be our first priority,” said Governor Dayton. “I have made this decision to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures now forecasted for next Monday. I encourage Minnesotans of all ages to exercise caution in these extreme weather conditions.”

The decision to close schools across the state was announced in advance in order to give school administrators, teachers, and parents sufficient time to plan for these closures. The Minnesota Department of Education will be coordinating with school districts throughout the day to notify the public about Monday’s school closings.

“Children's safety is always our top priority, and as a former superintendent, I know these are never easy calls,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “I want to thank Governor Dayton for putting our kids’ safety first, and am relieved parents won't have to worry about sending their children out in the dangerous cold on Monday, but can instead keep them home, safe and warm."

State law provides the Governor of Minnesota authority to “authorize the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed.”

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Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

(320) 214-4373
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