School in Northern Canada drops cold weather cutoff to -60

'It's often a clear day with little to no winds,' says District Education Authority chair

The District Education Authority (DEA) in Sanirajak, Nunavut, has loosened its cold weather policy so that kids don't have to miss school when it's just a bit chilly.

The Arnaqjuaq School has over 300 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

The school's weather policy used to call for closure when the windchill got between –50 and –55 C.

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DEA Chair Solomon Nasook said that at a meeting last week, the board agreed to bump that to –60 C.

"When we close the school due to extreme cold weather, parents tell us their little kids get angry... they would rather be in school. So we decided to change it," Nasook told CBC News in Inuktitut.

"It's often a clear day with little to no winds. So the principal and I thought that the kids could have recess at the gymnasium during cold weather days, so we decided that we should bump up the closure policy."

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eunice-tungilik/Submitted by Eunice Tungilik via CBC

Eunice Tungilik prefers to send her daughter to school, even when it's very cold. (Submitted by Eunice Tungilik)

Eunice Tungilik has a seven-year-old in Grade 2. She said she is happy about the new policy.

Her daughter "has always loved going to school even when it's extreme cold outside," Tungilik said in Inuktitut.

"When we tell her, 'You're not going to school, it's too cold,' she would get disappointed and ask, 'But why?'"

A windchill below –60 C is not common, even in Sanirajak, a community of fewer than 900 people on the shore of Foxe Basin in the central Arctic.

But it does happen.

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On Thursday, Environment Canada issued an extreme cold warning for the community. The temperature was expected to reach a low of –40 C with a windchill of –56 C overnight.

sanirajak-school-weather-policy/Submitted via CBC

The school's new cold weather policy leaves room for parents to decide not to send their kids to school due to cold weather. (Submitted)

The high for the next week is expected on Saturday at –32 C, and the low Sunday night, –43 C.

The community reached a record low of –54.1 C in February 1979.

In that case, even a slight breeze may have closed schools.

But even if it's not technically –60 C with the wind, the school policy is clear that parents "should make the final decision on whether to send his/her child to school when weather is a concern."

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Nasook says the DEA is also planning to come up with a sewing program for the community — with the goal of donating to families in need of warm clothing.

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Thumbnail courtesy of Luba Nangmalik.

The story was originally published for CBC News. It contains files from Karen Pikuyak.