“The philosophy is that schools don’t close,” says Pamela Lambert, assistant superintendent for Williston Public School District 1.
And that [philosophy is particularly true in Williston, where school doors often remain open year-round.
Torgun Knudsen has been living in Williston all her life. She can count the number of snow days on one hand.
“At first I was happy, but then I was surprised. Because school doesn’t get canceled here very often, for anything,” says Knudsen.
Williston Public School District 1 has closed schools only three times since 2011. Two days were back in May of that year when a blizzard hit the town causing a power outage. By comparison, Dickinson has closed schools five times since then and Bismarck eight.
“Williston’s always been kind of known as the banana belt of North Dakota. So a lot of times storms pass us over,” says Lambert.
Instead, the school cancels outdoor recess if the temperature drops below negative ten degrees with the wind chill factor. Parents are also informed about how children should be dressed in the cold weather temps.
“If they don’t have those clothes and it would be dangerous for them to be outside because they were improperly dressed, then we would not send them outside and expose them to the elements,” says Lambert.
Students have mixed feelings about the snow days, or lack thereof.
“I feel with the snow we’ve gotten this year, it hasn’t really been necessary,” says sophomore Andrew Tong.
“There’s been a few times in the past that I believe school should have been canceled because it was too dangerous for anybody to come to school,” says Knudsen.
“If it’s hazardous, I think there should be precautions or a little more lenient to people who might be late to school,” says sophomore Libby Swensrud.
Such determinations are made on a case by case basis says Lambert. And ultimately, it’s up to parents to decide what to do.
“If the weather is bad and a parent says it’s not worth it to our family to expose our child to this weather, we’re choosing to keep them home, that’s a parent’s choice,” says Lambert.
So while the philosophy may be that schools don’t close-or in this instance rarely close-some students could wind up with a snow day all their own.
We reached out to the Minot Public School District as well regarding school closures there, but did not hear back.