We live in the upper Midwest. That means snow, sooner or later.
When you’re a large school district, you get advisers to tell you what to do. You also have district boundaries and general expectations. Our bigger districts have a rule that if you can’t get there (teacher, student, whoever), the absence is excused, so then they can have school for those who need it. It’s not a horrible rule, but it also makes some parents worry if they can’t get their kids to school that some attendance boogeyman is going to get them.
I grew up in a rural district. That means I have been stuck on busses and been on busses going into ditches. It’s not fun. It’s also not un-fun, since you kind of joke around until the replacement bus comes and you then go off on your jolly way. But I am also Autistic, so I recognize if I, myself, am driving the car, it’s going to set me up for a bad day since I’ll worry about what happens if the car goes into the ditch or flips or whatever. It’s not like a school bus that has a “system” and procedure for what to do and replacement busses at the ready (and no, there’s no system for a flipped bus…just damage control at the district since they had school on a day that bad).
The small schools like ours usually wait. And wait and wait. We look to see what everyone else is doing. The trouble is, I think the big school districts do that, too, since there’s peer pressure associated with school closing. You are a wuss if you close school and the weather is fine.
Today is a little weird, too, being MLK day. Some schools are in session, and others aren’t, so “checking out the neighbors” is a bit tricky on a day like this.
The thing is, though, leadership is knowing that it’s always better if kids are safe and knowing your kids and your families. For some places, this will mean having school in a blizzard since that means someone will be able to watch the kids and it’s best if they’re not home alone. For other places, it’s better to close since the kids are old enough to watch themselves/have siblings/have parents at home, or some other supervision nearby.
I have some kids who walk to school and the sidewalks will not be shoveled yet. I have some who come from great distances (45 minutes or so on a good day, which this is not).
And the rest of us just want to stay home sometimes. We work hard. What’s a bonus day off going to hurt?
I closed before anyone else in my area today. I’m okay with this because it’s best for my kids. I’m the only Catholic school that closed.
But I’m also at the school that doesn’t take chances with people’s lives (we run with scissors when it comes to ignoring what schools are “supposed” to do, but so often THOSE things are more dangerous than what we actually do). We’re the school that knows sometimes a snow day is good for us and beats the heck out of anxiety and worry.
Sometimes leadership is being the only one who does what is likely the right thing to do, regardless of the local peer pressure.
Good school leaders realize that good students will learn anywhere. There’s a good chance my kids will read today, play some Lego today, and/or login to an online game where they can play with their friends in cyberspace. Some will definitely help shovel, too and probably play a little in the fresh snow.
All these things are learning, too.
And a bonus day off? Almost everyone loves that…in small doses. While my kids do like order and routine, they do also like a day off the routine here and there. We are currently debating the merits of year-round school since long breaks like summer are too hard on everyone. But these unexpected days off to do whatever we’d like? Fantastic!
Sometimes one of the most frustrating parts of education is having the whole summer off, but being very stingy with the snow days. I’m not sure who that works for, but it’s not my kids.
If you’ve got icky weather and get a day off, enjoy it! I know we will!