Here's why schools closed before it even started snowing

Backed up traffic waits at a light as pedestrians arrive at the Xcel Arena.
A winter storm that hit the metro area in the afternoon on Jan. 22, 2018, snarled traffic and stranded some St. Paul students for hours on school buses.
Jim Mone | AP file

Updated: 3:30 p.m. | Posted: 9 a.m.

The Twin Cities woke up Monday morning to icy roads but no major snow, prompting some to ask "Why are schools canceled?" and "When did Minnesota get so soft?"

The reality is that no superintendent wants a repeat of what happened to the St. Paul school district in January.

A similar winter storm that hit the metro area in the afternoon on Jan. 22 snarled traffic and stranded some St. Paul and Minneapolis students for hours on school buses.

St. Paul police eventually unloaded some kids from stuck buses and took them home using their all-wheel drive squad vehicles.

About 300 St. Paul students were stuck on buses or in schools between 10 p.m. and midnight, according to the district. The last student arrived home at 12:05 a.m. the next day.

St. Paul apologized, saying the district just didn't anticipate that much snow coming at the end of the school day. That struggle to cope with the January storm influenced the decision to call off Monday classes, said St. Paul School Superintendent Joe Gothard.

"I think it definitely gave us a perspective of what happens when things turn bad at dismissal time, what it can lead to. Buses getting stuck. And cars getting stuck. [We] certainly want to avoid that at all costs," Gothard said.

On Sunday night, many other Twin Cities schools decided to preemptively cancel classes due to the timing of the storm's arrival.

"The National Weather Service is forecasting heavy snowfall rates and accumulation of 6-8 inches, with the heaviest period being from noon-6 p.m. and likely to significantly impact commutes," Minneapolis schools said in a statement.

The decision by St. Paul and Minneapolis schools to close has affected the thinking of other districts said Bloomington school district spokesperson Rick Kaufman.

"I think that set in motion a lot of other districts in the northern tier initially to cancel and then the conversation of those school districts south of Minneapolis and Saint Paul obviously started having their own internal conversations," Kaufman said.

Anoka-Hennepin cited "anticipated heavy snow in the afternoon that will make for a challenging commute home," in its decision to close Monday.

The South Washington County Schools said the same, blaming "projected snowfall amounts in the afternoon during dismissal time."

Forecasters are predicting 6 to 8 inches of snow, with accumulations expected to be most intense between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when students are bused home.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.