Snow Days — Maybe the most controversial topic in education!

It is the best feeling in the world as a kid to wake-up to lots of snow on the ground and find out that school has been cancelled.  It rivals your birthday, Christmas morning and the tooth fairy.  It is magical and something all kids look forward too …. Kids even have all sorts of superstitions and dances to make  a snow day happen like throwing ice cubes out your window or wearing your pajamas inside out.  Whatever it takes kids will say…whatever it takes to get a snow day!

The mark of a good or bad superintendent is often gauged on whether or not they call off school.  As a former superintendent, I would often get the question “So how do you decide snow days?”

Kids and parents listen up — despite what you may have heard Superintendents are human and the decision to call off school is a decision they can never win.

When they decide to call off school kids are elated.  However not everyone is happy especially the segment of the population that is retired and have nothing better to do but complain.  I call them the “old farts” and they begin every story with the line “when I was a kid” and proceed to tell everyone how tough they are for going to school in sub-zero temperatures in blizzard like conditions and how they walked up hill both ways.  This of course pre-dates the invention of the school bus.  They all think kids are too soft and need to toughen up a bit and sending them to school in any kind of weather is the elixir for this affliction.

BUT….when you don’t call off school well……

Mama bears get angry.  They call and ask you — “How can you send my babies in this weather, what is wrong with you — do you not care about the safety of my children?  Did you drive these roads?  I would like to see you stand out there and wait for that bus in this weather!”  And let’s be honest some of them are not nice when they call and many of them are downright rude and offensive.

Nobody is happy regardless of the decision you make.

Early in my career, I did take all the phone calls good and bad and debated with them about my decision to stay open or close.  I told them how I woke-up at 3:00 AM and drove the roads, and talked to the road crews, and watched the radar like a seasoned meteorologist.  But after a few years, I realized that this exercise was pointless and the conversations only raised my blood pressure.  So I started to agree with every caller….yes Mrs so and so I should have cancelled…and yes Sir we should have gone today…kids these days are just too soft.  Agreeing with them was by far the most effective way to make the conversations short and the callers all felt better having told me off!

No — there is no science in calling off school.  No — there is no below zero temperature it needs to be to cancel. Yes — we truly care about kids safety.  It is gut feeling and one that is made in the interest of kids safety.

The kids likely have it right… is a crap shoot so you might as well wear those pajamas inside out, throw some ice cubes out the window because it might actually work! I think every kid should have a snow day to sled ride, build snowman, have a snowball fight and enjoy what makes it great about being a kid!


About James Herrholtz

Consultant, Teacher, Coach, Administrator for over 23 years. I have been a superintendent of schools, College Instructor, and worked at the Ohio Department of Education heading up the Division of Learning.
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