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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 04 2013

Fargo mom says kids should be bundled up for walk to, from McKinley music classes

FARGO – Rebecca Bailes thinks music class is a good thing for her McKinley Elementary first-grader.

But braving frostbite to learn a few songs?

That’s a tune Bailes was not willing to listen to.

When Bailes found out students at the north Fargo school weren’t wearing hats, coats or gloves while going to and from a separate music classroom, even in bitter cold, she and a relative complained – and got a cold shoulder.

That’s when she wrote to The Forum.

“Maybe I am being overprotective, but with how cold it has been this winter I find this extremely outrageous and uncalled for,” Bailes wrote.

“I don’t take my garbage outside or start my car without putting a jacket on,” she wrote. “I teach my child to put her jacket, hat and gloves on every time she goes outside when it is this cold out. I expect the school to take care of my child when she is there, not to send them outside when it is minus 32 with the wind chill and stand there in T-shirts.”

An inquiry from The Forum on Monday brought a swift reply from the school district’s main office.

No coats in the cold will continue no longer, Assistant Superintendent Bob Grosz said.

“We need to change that practice, and (Principal Dawn Streifel is) going to work with her staff to have students wear those coats” until the weather becomes nicer, Grosz said.

Streifel confirmed that McKinley’s Wildcats will no longer run wild to the portable music classroom without winter gear.

“In previous practice, there were times that we did,” she said. “And children were offered the opportunity to put coats on. But, we will be having them wear coats.”

Streifel said the portable classroom has been at McKinley for at least 10 years because the school at 2930 8th St. N. uses all of its classrooms.

Streifel said she will work with district staff to set a point when it will be OK to doff winter wear for the 30- or 40-yard walk to the music classroom.

“It definitely would not be until we had some consistently warmer temperatures,” Streifel said.

The only other school in the Fargo School District that uses portable classrooms is Kennedy Elementary, Grosz said.

Grosz said he was assured by Kennedy Principal Jerry Hanson that students there wear coats to and from those rooms.

Bailes was happy to learn that the kids will be bundled up from now on.

She said there are too many days kids can suffer frostbite in the winter.

“They (school officials) need to realize these things before the parents realize it. It’s their responsibility to take care of our kids,” Bailes said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583