Many students across the state were supposed to be back in the classroom Monday, but instead, they spent their first scheduled school day after winter break at home. Dozens of school systems have canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday because of the frigid temperatures.
“For minimum temperatures [Monday night], we could see about anywhere from -3 in the mountains down to about 15 to 20 degrees in far south Georgia,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Gibbs.
State law requires schools be in session 180 days per year, however the state allows districts four “emergency days” each year.
“Some of them will use those for a variety of reasons throughout the year and for the most part, they’re used for things like what’s happening tomorrow with either ice on the ground or extreme cold. So, they’ll have many of those built in,” explained Matt Cardoza, director of communications for the Georgia Department of Education.
Cardoza said schools that cancel class for more than four days can make them up in a variety of ways, including adding time to the end of the school day or opening school on a day when it was scheduled to be closed, such as a teacher workday.
Gwinnett County Schools will be closed on Tuesday and plan to make up the school day on February 17, the district’s first scheduled snow makeup day.
After canceling classes for Monday and Tuesday, northwest Georgia’s Dade County Schools have already announced students will return to class on Wednesday. That afternoon, temperatures across Georgia are expected to rise above the freezing mark.
Gibbs said the United States has not seen a widespread cold snap like this since the mid-1990s. The biggest danger in these frigid conditions is frostbite.
“With the wind chills we’re forecasting in far north Georgia, in the highest terrains we’re looking at possibly up to -30 degrees and when you get that cold, we’re looking at frostbite occurring within anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes from exposure in those temperatures. So, if your skin is exposed to -30 degree wind chill temperatures, you could have frostbite developing anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes from just being out in that cold,” Gibbs explained. “Now for the rest of the state, we’re looking at anywhere from an hour to 30 minutes.”
Gibbs said temperatures should go up to the 50s again this weekend.