Delta shuts schools at 50 below – but other districts don’t close during extreme cold

Dec 4, 2012

The cold snap that’s been gripping the Interior for more than a week now finally pushed the mercury to 50 below in the Delta Junction area, so Delta-Greely School District officials canceled classes this morning. 

Delta-Greely district officials canceled classes at all three schools this morning after learning that the temperature at the school bus garage read at least 50 below.
It’s happened twice over the past couple of years, and this is the first time this year. When it does, district secretary Sharon Waldo says her office sends out e-mails to faculty and staff, and notifies local radio stations. And an automated system gets the word out to parents.
“There will be an alert now for all parents – there’s an automated system that calls,” Waldo says.
But the Delta-Greely district is the only one in the Interior that has a policy of closing schools when it’s too cold.
Even though Tok recorded its first official 50-below reading last week, the superintendent of the area school district says students shouldn’t think they’ll be getting out of classes on account of the cold weather.
“Y’know if the kids are holding out for a cold day, they’re probably going to be out of luck for a while, because we usually don’t close school at all,” Poage says.

'This is Alaska. This is what we live with.'

Superintendent Todd Poage says he’s never closed all the district schools due to cold in the six years he’s headed the Alaska Gateway School District.
Poage says the district had make a rare exception to its hard line on weather-related closures earlier in the fall, when it temporarily closed a couple of schools for repairs after hurricane-force winds knocked out power
and peeled off roofing.
That’s pretty much the same policy as the Denali Borough School District, says James Elliott, the district superintendent.  Elliott says that’s pretty much the same policy for all the districts around the Interior, because extreme cold is just a fact of life in this part of the world.
“I think most people who live in the Interior here at least are aware that we have severe temperatures. This is Alaska. This is what we live with,” he says.
Fairbanks North Star Borough School District spokesman Bill Bailey says that district also does not close schools due to cold. He says the policy is to keep elementary-age kids indoors for recess when it hits 20 below, and curtails field trips and other activities beginning at 30 below.
Bailey says districts are much more likely to cancel classes when it’s warmer – even temporarily, like during a Chinook – because that often means roads are slick and that can make it hazardous to transport students to school.
“We run into some rainy days. And where driving conditions will impact student safety, at that point we’ll assess whether or not school should be canceled. But not due to cold weather,” Bailey says.