A polar vortex did not stop schools in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from daily operations.
While schools throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula closed for the past two or three days, students, teachers, and staff in Chippewa County geared up for classes in minus 9-degree weather Thursday morning.
Tim Hall, superintendent of Sault Ste. Marie Public Schools, said operations were normal and there were no delays.
The district was also open for classes Wednesday.
“We’re kind of used to this (cold temperatures),” Hall said, mentioning that school did close Monday because of wind chill temperatures. Classes at the high school were also canceled for two days this week because of water pipe breaks.
Hall said school closings are typical, because of air temperature or wind chill reaching the minus 30-degree threshold. He said this week’s attendance at the district, which has 2,100 students, has been 86 to 94 percent.
Besides temperatures, Hall said staff also check road conditions before making a decision whether to cancel class.
“In general, everybody has the same concerns,” Hall said. “It’s never an easy decision (to close schools). Student safety is always a concern.”
Saute Ste. Marie is not the only district in Chippewa County open Thursday. A Facebook post on De Tour Area School District’s account informed students and parents of classes.
The district also includes students from Drummond Island.
“Ok Raider fans, the low that we’ve seen today is -15 and no wind. The roads are clear and ready to travel on. WE WILL BE HAVING SCHOOL TODAY… PS. Other schools in the area are open today too, so you don’t need to come in and say, ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS CLOSED why aren’t we,'” the post said.
De Tour superintendent Robert Vaught said about 31 students from Drummond Island ride a ferry to De Tour. A few other students ride snowmobiles to class.
Vaught works with Hall and other school districts in the county to monitor the weather. Vaught said his district, which has 175 students, also goes by the 30 below zero degree threshold.
But the district closed last week after 18 inches of snow fell.
“Our kids are tough. They’re used to this but kids can get hurt and we have to take that into consideration,” Vaught said. “We’ve got a resilient staff, tough people.”
Michigan set a record Thursday when a temperature of minus 13 degrees was recorded at 6 a.m., beating out a Jan. 31, 1920, record of minus 7 degrees. Several schools and businesses closed and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a state of emergency.
Across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, students also had school Thursday morning, despite 11 below zero weather.
Scott Scamplebury, public relations officer for Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, said the district did not have any class delays.