As an arctic blast pushes across the Midwest, several area school districts called off all classes and extracurricular activities Wednesday due to dangerous subzero temperatures and gusty winds.
Chicago, Minneapolis and Omaha, Nebraska, Public School Districts were among the bunch as temperatures dipped far below freezing in the early morning hours Wednesday.
"The safety and well-being of our students comes first," Chicago Public School District CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said.
"The frigid temperatures and winds make a dangerous combination, and it is in the best interest of our students to cancel classes."
The mercury dropped to minus 1 F in the Chicago area this morning with winds gusting to 25 mph. The AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature hit minus 29 F.
Housing more than 400,00 students, the Chicago Public School district is the third largest in the nation and vowed to remain open and accept students who arrived to school despite the cancellation.
CPS has canceled classes for all students today, Weds. Jan. 7 due to extreme weather. http://t.co/6HidxFMbnC pic.twitter.com/8Yw4pzXua0— ChicagoPublicSchools (@ChiPubSchools) January 7, 2015
For families seeking alternative youth programs and services, the Chicago Public Library and all Chicago Park District facilities will be open during their normal operating hours, they added.
Numerous Midwest schools reconsidered the criteria for district-wide closures in 2013, when a piece of the arctic air from the polar vortex slipper farther south than normal, sending a blast of frigid air into the Midwest and East for a several-day stretch.
Minneapolis Public Schools has decided to consider closures when wind chill at 6:30 a.m. hits minus 35 F.
Weather conditions met their criteria Wednesday morning, prompting the district-wide cancellation. Nearby St. Paul School District, however, remained open Jan. 7 but agreed to excuse any absences.
"For some of our families, school is the safest place for their students during this cold weather. Others will want to keep their children home," a St. Paul Public Schools press release stated on Tuesday.
"That's why we are offering SPPS families the opportunity to do what they know is best for their own children."
Districts in the region will have another tough decision to make Thursday morning as temperatures will dive even farther, hitting as low as minus 10 F in some areas. The wind chill will relent, however, as gusts will fall out of the 20-mph range.
"Regardless of whether classes resume Thursday, it will be another dangerously cold morning," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Maggie Samuhel said.
"Prolonged exposure is not a good idea. You definitely do not want to to be out in the cold for long."
They are sending these student drivers out in more ice and during rush hour #closeFCPS— Eric (@GenericEric16) January 7, 2015
Amidst the extreme weather, students across the Midwest and East took to social media to advocate for closures this week - tweeting to government leaders and school districts.
In Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, students utilized the hashtag #CloseFCPS, advocating for a snow day for all Fairfax County Public Schools. Though the district chose to remain open, the hashtag secured a spot as the number one trend in the United States and number three trend worldwide on Twitter Tuesday.