The Polar Vortex blasts into Minnesota

St. Paul Academy and Summit School is notorious for braving the weather and having school even on the most brutal winter days, but with these recent extreme negative temperatures the SPA administration made the call to cancel school disrupting classes, athletic events, and student life.

SPA had its first official “cold day” on Jan. 6, extending Winter Break a day for Middle Schoolers. The second one came right after on Jan. 7 extending Upper School break by a day and middle school for two. Three weeks later cold days were starting to pile up fast. The third cold day occurred on Jan. 23 and the fourth on Jan. 27.

Upper School Principal Chris Hughes said that getting students to school safely was the biggest concern.

“It was driving more than anything,” he said. “We have a lot of students who spend a lot of time on the road.”

Hughes explained that the decision to close the school is made between faculty in the Lower School, Middle School and Upper School. “Typically all of us, Mr. Roberts, the three principals, Ms. Reis-Richter the Assistant Head of School, Ms. Berger, the Communications Director, are all watching websites and weather channels and then either by email or phone we communicate in the evening,” Hughes said. Even though cancelling school would result in a lot of rescheduling, safety was the number one goal in making these decisions.

The fourth snow day on Jan. 27 forced Diversity Dean Karen Dye, Intercultural Club and Gay Straight Alliance to reschedule the Martin Luther King, Jr. program they had planned. “I am mostly disappointed that the MLK program was moved to some unspecified date in the future because I think it is important for us to recognize MLK day in school and as a community and I was excited for the activities we planned in Inter-cultural Club,” junior Evva Parsons said.

Finally, on Jan. 28 school was scheduled to open at 11:30 with classes starting at noon. In an email to students and parents in reference to the unusual schedule, Head of School Bryn Roberts wrote, “As I am sure you are aware, these are difficult decisions. The principals and I are struggling to balance our keen desire to have our students back at school with our sense of the very real danger that this extraordinary weather presents.”

Nonetheless, this unusual schedule was difficult to maneuver for students who rely on parents for rides and parents who work full time. “I think it would make the lives of many parents and students a lot more effortless and uncomplicated if SPA had opened the school at our regular times,” sophomore Danish Mahmood said. “We have missed many days of school due to weather and when the schedule starts to get altered, it ruins the academic rhythm of all the students.”

The cold days have also been detrimental for students involved with sports and extracurricular activities. SPA’s Alpine Ski team for example was not able to practice for any of the days off, delaying their practice schedule significantly. “It’s difficult because with the loss of practice, it comes to race day which usually isn’t cancelled and that results in people having slower runs or falling and just not being adjusted to skiing over a couple of days,” senior alpine ski captain Chris Gast said.

Despite the inconvenience, Gast admits that practicing in the extreme whether would have been difficult even if school hadn’t been cancelled. “It’s hard to balance whether or not we should have practice in the cold because even if we do go out when it’s thirty degrees below, we won’t have as good a practice,” Gast said.

On Groundhog Day, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter which could mean more cold days for SPA.

Here are some social media reactions from students: