Iowa gov cannot call off classes; decision left up to each district
January 7, 2014
Fairview Elementary students walk to school today — following a late start due to frigid temperatures — to end their winter break. An arctic blast of cold air swept across the Midwest Sunday night and into Monday, forcing area schools to cancel class due to below-zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills.
With temperatures expected to push above zero today, Carroll and surrounding area students found themselves back at school following two-hour delays.
In Minnesota, many school remained closed today, but the decision was left to local districts as opposed to Monday's action when Gov. Mark Dayton closed schools across the state for the first time in more than a decade.
Minnesota state law gives the governor the authority to "authorize the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed."
In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad has no such authority said state department of education representative Staci Hupp.
"There's not a mechanism in the law that allows us at the state level to close all schools because of weather," said Hupp, adding that the decision to close or remain open is left to local administrators.
Iowa's stance is par for the course in the Midwest. According to representatives from the governors' offices in Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota, the power to close schools lies solely within each district.
"The decision can be influenced by an emergency called at the state level, but the school districts themselves have the authority to actually cancel," said Julie Boeckmann of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Department of Education.
According to Carroll Community School District superintendent Rob Cordes, Iowa law is at it should be.
"Each district is able to make that decision on their own," he said. "I think they know what is best for their specific situation in things like that. In a local-control state, I think it falls upon local folks to be able to make that decision."
Representatives from the Wisconsin governor's office and department of education had not responded when this issue went to press.
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