Thursday, February 20, 2014


My three boys and my teacher wife were surprised and overjoyed to get an unexpected holiday today. 

School was out for the day!

I really feel for the folks who have to make the call, based on a weather forecast, to close school. It is often a no-win-situation. Unlike the Kobayashi Maru scenario, it is lose-lose situation.

The paramount factor in any decision to close schools in the face of adverse  weather is the safety of children. I believe that an err on the side of caution is much better than haggling over lost instruction time.

I hear all kinds of nostalgic comments from folks on the open lines, at coffee shops and from parents about how foolish it is to close schools over a few flakes of snow. "The kids and parents are too soft these days", "I never remember school closing for a bit of snow" and "any excuse for a day off"some utter. 

Now - in all honesty, I do not remember ever having a snow day. All of the teachers and students at St. Bernard's All Grade lived in St. Bernard's.

Blizzard conditions just slowed you down. The staff and the students trudged to school, rolled over snowbanks and fought off the pricks of pain as stabs of ice pellets slamming into our faces. We were some thick and tough!

Of course, most parents were not rushing from work to pick-up the kids, there was not a lot of traffic and there was no issue with clearing parking lots, there was no concern about buses sliding off the road and injury law was not a consideration.

The days of community and neighborhood schools are all but over. Teachers, administrators and students rarely reside in the same community. Folks drive to work, kids take buses. Even kids that can walk to and from school have to play leap-frog with traffic and snowploughs. The logistics of dropping/or picking up children in congested snow-filled parking lots in blizzard conditions and getting back to work exponentially increase the risk of an accident.

For example, last Friday St. John's was the recipient of an afternoon freezing rain storm. The rain came in the mid afternoon after a foot of snow had fallen. The result was pure chaos and pandemonium in the school parking lots. At Mary Queen of Peace, my first pick-up took 25 minutes. Cars were stuck, the lot had not been cleared, a bus had tipped on it's side. The scene was even worse at St. Paul's Jr. High where traffic was backed-up on Newfoundland Drive from Logy Bay and Torbay Roads. The parking lot was not cleared, buses could not navigate into the lot either. Kids were walking through slush up to their knees and getting splashed by the slow moving traffic. Add to that the frustration of parents who were in a rush to get back to work. What a scene!

My first thought was, why? Why are schools not closed? 

The answer, the forecast had not called for the mess that fell at about the sometime as classes were being let out. It caught snowplough operators, parents and school administrators by surprise. 

Those that make the decisions to close can only do so based on the best weather forecasting information money can by. They do not rely on the local radio stations, they get their information from expert meteorologist.  Of course, here on the North East Avalon predicting the weather in advance, with exact accuracy, is not an exact science.

I will make a couple of suggestions for those of you that are worried about instruction time - NL District should consider opening up schools on an occasional Saturday to make up for lost time. Yes there would be an expense, but it would be better than putting kids in harms way,

As well, if NL District can dismiss early, can they not extend the day. If the parking lots are a mess - announced a delayed closure. Give the contractors a chance to make it safe!

My point...stop bitching! 

The English Board only has the best interest of our kids at heart.

1 comment: said...

Peter, you are absolutely correct, the day of walking to school in the larger centers of Newfoundland are long gone. In the winter time parents do have an option. Listen to the long range forecast and keep the children home if it's predicting a storm, and/or if the storm starts while in school, make your way there before "out time". We know some parents won't follow any rule put in place but any school should have a plan in place to plow immediately the pick up zone. The children aren't 'sugar plums" and won't melt if they do get a bit wet. The rule should be stay in the playground until picked up by the parent or responsible person. Regardless of what the "powers that be say" people will bitch, right or wrong. Up here we bitch at the "mainlanders" because we say they don't know how to drive in snow. They say we are crazy because we take to many risks. So, both sides bitch about something and it will always be. Just sayin.