School districts throughout the area are preparing for bitterly cold temperatures predicted next week.
Very cold air is poised to move into southern Wisconsin for the next week. High temperatures will be in the mid-teens by Friday and Saturday, with the low Friday night dipping near zero.
Beloit Superintendent Dr. Steve McNeal said they have already sent information out to parents to warn them about wind chills expected to be well below zero.
He said they don’t have a specific temperature before they call of school. The decision is made on a case-by-case basis, but the final decision on whether or not to close school is usually made just hours before the school day begins.
“We don’t have a set thing saying that at five below zero we’re shutting down all the schools, or if the winds are at 25 miles per hour out of the north we’re closing school. We evaluate it each and every time,” McNeal said.
On extremely cold days buildings are open earlier than normal so students won’t have to wait outside.
“So if parents drop them off, they don’t have to worry about them waiting in the severe cold. We do open up our schools and let them in, so the kids aren’t standing outside in those extreme temperatures,” McNeal said.
Assistant Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District Mike Barry said wind chill warnings are just as significant as winter storm warnings, and if the National Weather Service implements one, they will likely close.
“Typically the National Weather Service will classify a wind chill warning at 35 below zero with at least 3 miles per hour wind for more than a three-hour duration,” Barry said.
One of the biggest challenges Madison schools face during winter is transportation.
Barry said they tend to experience the most trouble with buses during extremely cold weather.
The decision to close ultimately comes down to safety for students and staff.
McNeal said if parents don’t have the resources to get their child warm winter clothing, they can contact the office at their child’s school in Beloit. They’re usually able to provide hats, gloves and sometimes coats.
The area should see snow fall Sunday through Sunday night and highs in the lower 20s after another storm system moves through the country Sunday. Southern Wisconsin should end up with 2-5 inches of snow before Monday morning.
Lows will be below zero for Monday and Tuesday nights, and highs will be in the single digits Tuesday. Since wind will also be a factor during these cold temperatures, wind chills could reach 30 below zero during the coldest part of the day.