As extreme cold approaches, this is how schools decide when to keep students at home

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FISHERS, Ind. — With dangerously cold temperatures heading toward central Indiana, school districts across the area are trying to decide whether they’ll need to cancel classes on Wednesday and Thursday.

District officials say decisions to delay or cancel classes are often complicated. Districts like Hamilton Southeastern in Fishers say their decision process looks at several factors, including road conditions and wind chill temperature at the time of school bus pickup.

“Really where we’re looking now is that wind. If the wind continues to be at the numbers that it is, it’s going to be dangerous,” transportation director Zach McKinney said.

McKinney says the main  issue is whether kids will be safe waiting at the bus stop. Wind chills could reach beyond the -30 degree mark. McKinney says generally, the district uses a guideline of -19 degrees when deciding to cancel classes. However, decisions about delays and cancellations hinge on when those temperatures will hit and how long children could be exposed.

“With a delay, does that buy us more time for warmth, lessen the wind chance so we can get the students picked up safely?” transportation director McKinney said.

Doctors say in extreme cold, it doesn’t take long for children to feel the effects of hypothermia or frostbite.

“You know you can get in trouble in ten minutes or less,” IU Methodist ER Dr. Geoffrey Billows said.

Several school districts across the area say their decision process also comes down to multiple factors. However, many schools now have the ability to schedule work from home or E-learning days, so they have several options.

In the end every decision comes down to student safety.

“We want to make sure when we get these kiddos that they’re not waiting on the bus stop for up. We can get them picked up on time, get them to school on time, they can go through their academic day and get them delivered home as safe as possible,” McKinney said.

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