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District scrambles to make up snow and cold-weather closures

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After nearly three weeks off, Two Harbors and Silver Bay students returned to their classrooms on Wednesday.

A scheduled two-week vacation was extended thanks to the bitter cold on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Governor Mark Dayton ordered all public schools closed on Monday and the district made the call on Tuesday to keep kids at home, too.

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“The governor has set the bar and that’s when we hit the -50 wind chill,” Superintendent Bill Crandall said.

Forecasts predicted wind chills close to that -50 degree mark in the early morning hours on Tuesday, and the mercury peaked at just -4 degrees in the afternoon, with a -15 wind chill.

While it’s safer for students to stay home in extreme temperatures, the increased number of weather-related closures has teachers and administrators scrambling to cram academics and extra-curriculars into fewer days.

This week’s cancellations, added to the three school days cancelled in early December after a 72-hour snow storm, bring the total number of closures to five this semester. Crandall said this is unusual, since the average year will see about four weather-related closures, typically during the second semester.

“At this point, this semester, we’ve missed a full week of school. That’s one of the definite needs that we have to address,” Crandall said.

Teachers are already shuffling coursework around to account for the missed days. Because the district runs on four-day weeks, a day lost means the loss of more instructional minutes than a five-day school would experience, but it also gives the district the option to make up time on Fridays.

Students will be attending school today to make up for one of the lost days, but the semester ends next week – so squeezing in all the lost time will be difficult, Crandall said.

Athletic teams also bear the brunt of the missed days, with athletic directors Scott Ross and Roger Koster forced to reschedule sporting events. Ross said he’s had to reschedule a ski meet and seven Two Harbors varsity games.

“It’s a matter of talking to our coaches and talking to the other school,” he said, “and trying to find a date that works for both schools.” Since it’s early in the season, rescheduling games hasn’t been too difficult, he added, and here are still five or six weeks left in the season for most sports.

“You just do what you have to do. Everybody works together to make sure it’s good for our kids,” he said.

On the whole, this season’s cancellations have taken a lesser toll on student athletics that last year’s late-season snow storm that shortened baseball, softball, golf and track seasons to about a month. It was a sprint to reschedule so many games and some had to be cancelled outright, said Ross.

“Once you went through last spring, everything else seems not so bad. Right now, it’s still doable.”

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