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Kentucky’s governor joked we’re too ‘soft’ on kids when we close schools for cold weather. Is he right?

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The forecast in Winnipeg is beating out most places across the globe...even outer space – Jan 30, 2019

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is in hot water over comments about extreme cold weather.

Kentucky, where Bevin is a Republican governor, is one of many places across the continent grappling with extreme weather. Schools in many Kentucky districts closed on Wednesday after the forecasts predicted wind chill below -17 C.

For that, Bevin said they were being too “soft” on the kids.

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Many teachers, school officials, and Bevin’s political opponents were outraged, even though he told the radio host he’s “being only slightly facetious” and did admit it’s “better to err on the side of being safe.”

But frigid temperatures in Canadian cities like Winnipeg, where the current deep freeze is beating out most of the world — including outer space — aren’t keeping kids from going to school.

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“School in Winnipeg would only be cancelled if city transportation had to be cancelled,” said Radean Carter, spokesperson with the Winnipeg School Division.

“This has not happened for at least the past three decades.”

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In Regina, also under an extreme cold warning, public schools are “very rarely” closed. That’s because, per the district’s online explainer, “Severe weather is a way of life in Saskatchewan.”

That being said, the schools sometimes do close, said Terry Lazarou, supervisor of communications with Regina Public Schools. While the district reviews its regulations every year, Lazarou said it’s been a while since changes were made.

Per current protocols, school transportation is cancelled if the wind chill reaches at least -45 C. However, schools themselves stay open, per the district, “because we recognize that students may show up to school, regardless of the weather.”

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In cases when the school does close, it’s usually a result of heating or other mechanical issues, not the weather.

READ MORE: U.S. Midwest cities seeing ‘life-threatening’ cold — trains cancelled, mail service suspended

The last change Regina made to these protocols was a few years ago, Lazarou said, and it was about transportation protocols for students requiring wheelchair accessible vehicles. While previously the weather cut off was -45 C wind chill, now it’s capped at -40 C due to “greater risk of mechanical breakdown.”

Regardless, Lazarou said, “these decisions are about keeping students safe.”

Winnipeg has the same -45 C cut off for school transportation. It keeps the schools open for parents, Carter said.

“It is the parents’ choice to keep a child home on days with extreme weather. For many of our parents, this is not an option, and therefore we keep our schools open.”

The last time Winnipeg reviewed the weather guidelines was four years ago.

In Toronto, there hasn’t been a Toronto District School Board-wide closure since 2011, said spokesperson Ryan Bird, and he thinks the one before that was in 1999 when the city called in the military to help with a snow dump.

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Bird said there’s no hard and fast policy for closing the schools and that staff evaluate “each individual weather event” before making a decision based on road conditions, traffic, and current and forecasted weather. None have closed so far this academic year, he said.

Closures, Bird said, “are definitely a rarity.”

– with files from The Associated Press

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