It was definitely a trick, especially so early in the school year. After all, there is a reason we call them “snow days.” But given the intensity of Hurricane Sandy and the potential for widespread damage and power outages, closing school was the appropriate choice this time around.
It turns out the real problem was not the first day of the storm but the aftermath and cleanup, at least in Needham. NSTAR work crews arrived too late to clean limbs and lines in time for a safe path to school, so we closed the district for a second day.
I am not a fan of “snow days” or as we now (now being the last 48 hours) refer to them: inclement weather days. Our time with students is already too short and a day missed throws the learning off and certainly upsets the family routine. On top of that, readjusting lessons and rescheduling teacher meetings, field trips, and assignments is a challenge.
My philosophy has been that we will always have school unless deteriorating weather conditions indicate that schools should close due to unsafe conditions.
A few inches of snow, ice, or slush should not be reason to close school! Folks just have to get up a little earlier on a morning weather is predicted to be poor and prepare for icy windshields, slippery walks, and long commutes. Put on the galoshes, warm up the car, and get going! School is waiting!
Of course, if the snowstorm—or hurricane—is or is predicted to be nasty, I take a cautious approach. I don’t want any child to be put in harm’s way, and I take that responsibility seriously. That’s why early in the morning of an inclement weather day I consult with public safety officials, review weather maps and information, and then drive around the streets of Needham to see what road and sidewalk conditions are. I try to balance all of that information and arrive at a decision that is a safe one for students and staff.
Like all decisions I make, however, not everyone agrees. And there have been times I was too cautious and canceled school when, perhaps, we could have just had a delayed opening. And each time there is a cancellation there are at least half a dozen parents who call or email to tell me I a) made the wrong decision and what was I thinking?; or b) I should have made the decision the day before and what was I thinking?; or, c) please wait until the morning to make a decision and what was I thinking?; or d) please don’t wake me up at 5:30 a. m. to tell me there is no school and, by the way, what was I thinking?. (On the last point, instructions for opting out of the weather-related cancellation phone/email notifications can be found on the district’s website: http://www.needham.k12.ma.us/ Look on the left under Hot Topics and open the PDF: No School/Two Hour Delay Information.)
Bottom line? Students should be in school and weather should never interfere with the learning.
Unless it does.