What kind of message are we sending to our kids to close schools when it snows 4 inches?

Alright, I know.  It’s been 6+ months since I wrote a blog entry.  I was on a roll there, I know. Truth be told, I took a corporate job in late August last year that has been keeping me very busy. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “You just started your own company, began working with new clients, launched your website, and you sold out so quickly?”  That’s not EXACTLY what my friends and family have been telling me, but I am enjoying my new job leading global marketing and communications at a local company…but there’s no excuse for not writing – so here I go…are you ready?

So, this blog post is 30% therapeutic, 30% cathartic and 40% an attempt at making a really big, fat, and hairy statement about the insanity of closing schools when it snows…4 inches and the temperature dips into the single digits?  OK – I must take a big, deep inhale before I write anymore. Breathe. OK – done.  But, really? How are these decisions made? Who makes them? Based on what facts? I digress for just a bit.

I confess I have a particular view on this whole subject as a (working) parent and a former school board member.I recognize it’s very different for folks who aren’t raising kids and don’t have to contend with figuring out what to do with kids on a snow day when you have to get to work.  I get it.  As a working parent, I honestly have mixed reactions to the news of school closings or delays.  One part of me, who lives vicariously through my children, jumps for joy at the thought of allowing my kids to sleep three more hours and lounge in their PJs all day.  As a kid, I lived for those rare snow days.  The other part of me seethes with utter contempt for those cruel, clueless and overly anxious ‘people’ who make decisions about closing schools before one snowflake has fallen as I attempt to figure out how I’ll juggle taking care of kids and getting to the office for a full day of work and meetings.

As a former school board member and elected official, I recognize the agony and frustration of having to ‘answer’ to the legion of people in the community who never like whatever decision is made about keeping schools open or closed due to weather.  It doesn’t matter what information or justification was factored into making the decision. There are certain people who are never happy.

On the other hand, cancelling school has huge repercussions beyond having to figure out how to make up the day on the other end of the school calendar.  Kids who rely on getting a warm meal through the free and reduced lunch program will go hungry.  Kids without a safe and warm place to go during the day are at risk.  These are harsh realities many of us don’t know or think about their impact when decisions are made to close schools.

I also think there are other repercussions of closing schools at the prospect of a snowfall and low temperatures. What message are we sending our kids?  Are we trying to keep our kids safe at the cost of denying them the opportunity to toughen up in the snow and cold temperatures?  Are we actually softening our kids instead of teaching them how to bundle up, prepare for cold weather, navigate through the snow and perhaps throw a snowball or two along the way?  I understand the transportation challenges in large urban areas like the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region where traffic is crazy, streets are slick and roads can be dangerous. I also remember the days when I was growing up when there was snow for weeks and weeks and we somehow managed to get back and forth to school without any problem. No, I didn’t grow up in the DC area but what about four wheel drive SUVs and trucks?  What about snow tires?  Don’t they make them anymore?  What about all of those trucks idling on the shoulders of the highways pouring tons of salt onto the roads?  What’s the purpose of having contingency plans for snow and inclement weather when we just go ahead and shut everything down? 

Somehow all those people who take the day off from work to take care of their kids make it to the malls.  You can’t find a parking space at shopping malls on snow days!  So why can’t we get them to school?  It’s time to rethink our entire approach to dealing and preparing for weather and help our kids understand how to plan, tough it out and safely get them to school.  There’s a whole weather education waiting for our kids. It’s up to us to prepare them for the harsh weather ahead.


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