March 6, 2019 9:34 pm

How cold is too cold for outdoor recess? Guidelines vary across Canada

WATCH: During recess, most provinces pull students indoors between -20 C and -28 C — with or without wind chill — but up north, students are encouraged to embrace the cold. Tiffany Lizée explains.

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It was one of the coldest Februarys on record across parts of the prairies and the frigid weather has spilled into March.

Luckily, warmer weather is on the way, which is welcomed news for some teachers who have had to keep students busy indoors when it was too cold to send them out for recess and lunch breaks.

How cold is too cold and how is that determined?

“It’s really about student safety and that’s the key,” said Tracy Kohan who is a principal Sherwood School in Calgary. “Kids being prepared with warm mittens and coats and boots.”

Kohan says often in schools some kids are not appropriately dressed for the cold weather, which can lead to teachers having to keep the whole group inside to provide suitable supervision.

“Safety is the key for us to make those calls and then figuring out ways to get them active and moving within the school.”

READ MORE: Indoor recess guidelines across Canada

Indoor recess guidelines

Indoor recess guidelines differ widely across Canada.

In Alberta, students are kept inside at recess when the temperature or wind chill falls between -20 C and -23 C respectively.

Winnipeg and parts of Ontario are a more liberal, allowing students outside until -28 C with or without wind chill.

Cody Coates/Global News

Up north, students are encouraged to embrace the winter weather and the guidelines see children playing outside in far colder temperatures.

“If it’s -35 C and that’s with the wind chill or not, the students stay inside and of course if it’s warmer they’re out expanding their energy,” said Doug Workman with the Iqaluit District Education Authority.

“Then for the middle school, it’s -40 C and that’s with wind chill or not.”

READ MORE: Should Canadian schools have more recess breaks?

Workman does admit most students are from the area and used to the icy grip of winter.

And apparently, they don’t mind as much.

“You’ll find even on blizzard days, if the temperature reaches -50 C with the wind chill — they’re outside playing,” Workman said.

READ MORE: ‘Children are calmer, more focused’: Rough play at recess being tested in some Quebec schools

Youths play ice hockey on an outdoor rink in front of the Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, Canada on February 16, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

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