School-closing decision for a midday snowstorm: ya win some and ya lose some

IMG_2828Northfield Schools opted to NOT dismiss school early yesterday when an intense snowstorm began hitting the area at around 11 am.  Northfield News reporter David Henke posted this comment to the discussion thread on the snow emergency article where some folks were complaining: (continued)


According to Superintendent Chris Richardson, the district chose not to let schools out early because they were afraid they’d be letting students out into the worst of the storm. Waiting it out, Richardson said, seemed like a better option because weather reports stated that snowfall was supposed to drop off and visibility improve later in the day.

I took the photo above at about 2:15 pm and conditions had rapidly improved from an hour earlier. By 3 pm, it was just moderate snow. So I think Richardson made the right call. With the pinpoint accuracy of the weather forecast and the crystal clear radar images that a big storm was about to hit, I think a case could be made that he could’ve canceled school BEFORE the storm hit. But you can never tell when a storm might wimp out at the last minute. And then some parents would be unhappy with that decision.

Tim Freeland at KYMN blogged the closing-related announcements at about 1:20 pm, and it included these school announcements:

  • Randolph Closed
  • Kenyon-Wanamingo Closed
  • Cannon Falls Closed
  • Fairbault Public Schools Closed


  1. Cathy Malecha said:

    Sorry, I have to disagree with the decision to keep the schools open by Mr. Richardson. Although the majority of the snow had dwindled off, some roads were simply impassible. Obviously Benjamin Bus should be given a pat on the back for the job they did that day. There were many, many roads in Nfld that weren’t plowed and I believe that taking the risk and sending our kids home before the storm hits is a much better option.

    I’ve overheard many conversations about this in the local coffee shop and even the grocery store. Many parents are disgusted with the decision he made. The burden of getting our children doesn’t fall on Chris Richardson, but falls on the bus company and the drivers. Thank God the kids got home safe and sound, but what would the sups response be to any parent of a child had a disaster happened? Was it again about the almighty tax dollar? Would the school have lost some sort of funding for the day? I myself don’t know how that whole thing works, but I do know that he put every single student, teacher, cook, secretary, etc. at risk that day.

    March 8, 2009
  2. Jane Moline said:

    I think Richardson made the right call. The only other choice was to preemptively call off school in case the storm was bad. Benjamin Bus made a valiant effort and the visibility was really good at the time the buses were going. The heavy snow did make some roads difficult to navigate, but the worst disaster would be a stuck bus, where no one would be hurt but logistics affected.

    Deciding when to call school is especially difficult and we expect our superintendent to be highly skilled at this in Minnesota, becasue:

    1 We need to have our kids go to school-we cannot have them missing days on whims–so it has got to be serious to call school. Yes, our funding can depend on it, but we can add days on the end of the year, which the supt. can do if we use too many snow days-so it is not so much funding as the problems we create by having too many–so we spend the snow days wisely.

    1. Parents work and are not home. It they call school, you could be causing all kinds of logistic problems for parents who have to find coverage for their kids or even get them safely into their locked house. This can be a serious safety issue.

    3.You can go get your kids anytime you think the conditions are too rough and take them out of school yourself. This is your choice–not to be imposed on everyone.

    1. This is Minnesota. We can deal with a little wet snow. We struggle with ice and blizzards, though, but we can tell the difference. We go to work and expect businesses to stay open in spite of the crazy weather.

    This is one thing I think Richardson does well.

    March 8, 2009

Leave a Reply