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Helena Public School officials explain cold weather policies

Posted at 9:26 AM, Feb 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-08 11:26:41-05

Ongoing bitter cold temperatures mean area kids are spending all day inside.

Helena Public Schools will keep kids inside for recess if the temperature or wind chill are at zero degrees or below.

Superintendent Tyler Ream said the schools keep tabs on their own conditions and make the call based on what’s happening hour by hour.

The varying landscape can mean different situations for each school.

“So you could have one school where it’s two degrees and they’re out at recess and you could drive a couple miles and because the schools are using what is the temperature at the school and not what says, but what’s the temperature actually at the school,” said Ream. “It could be -7 at another school and they’re not out at recess. So we do get some calls, ‘Why are students out or why are students not out?’ and we can always refer back to, ‘Well, the temperature at the school says it’s this.'”

Jim Darcy Elementary School in the north valley is an example of the temperature differences.

Principal Brian Cummings said when the wind blows, it can be significantly colder there, but yet at times they can escape the inversions and be warmer.

He said they find creative ways to use their limited space to help kids get the wiggles out and help teachers get a respite.

“At all elementary schools, it’s kind of a bit of magic, to be sure we’re giving the teachers a little bit of a break, if we can, also,” said Cummings. “So we try to grab on to a large chunk of the kids, get them to a gym space, or a music room space or something along those lines, so teachers can have a bit of a break, because most buildings don’t have enough staff to put another human, another educator, into the room to watch the kids so the teachers can have a break also.”

As for issues regarding whether to close school because of weather,  Superintendent Ream said they have policies in place to make that decision, but if businesses and government stay open, most of the time they will too.

-Reported by Melissa Jensen/MTN News