Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fahrenheit -451, The Temperature At Which Schools Close

It's been a long winter for those on the East coast, the plains, and the Midwest in the United States.  My Twitter feed has been constantly filled up with posts about temperature (or the dashboard thermometer 'selfie' proving it's real damn cold where your at) and massive snow fall.  Many schools have been cancelled due to these circumstances.  However, many have not.

This is an impossible position for superintendents.  Cancelling school creates a ripple effect of other issues- most notably day care concerns.  While the occasional unexpected day off may be welcomed by some teachers, the extension of the school year later on is rarely popular.

Still I find it odd that in a country where New York has a limit on the size of soda you can buy, where seat belts & helmets must be worn by law, where most states have enacted smoking bans/limits of some sort, where metal detectors & cops are standard in school buildings, and where school districts are held to strict dietary cafeteria regulations- all in the name of safety and health, that superintendents are left to have to arbitrarily decide at what negative wind chill it's too low for a six year old to walk to and stand at a bus stop (is -25 degrees wind chill too low?  -30?).   How many inches of snow and freezing ice are unwise to send school buses (and staff) out on?

In weather as frigid as it's been this month in many parts of the country, frost bite can set in in under 10 minutes.  Is it more likely that one of our students DOES have a gun or DOESN'T have a pair of gloves?  Do our laws and procedures reflect the answer to that question?

I know, I know- we all walked to school in much colder temperature (uphill, both ways, barefoot...), kids are soft these days, blah blah blah.  Perhaps there's some truth there as well.  But when a five year old loses her fingers because his bus is late or a bus slides off an icy road, I can assure that 'meeting the demands of the Common Core' will be a very distant afterthought.

Some winters are tougher than others.  The number of days in question can probably be counted on one hand over the course of several years.  But on those days, I would urge leaders and policy makers to show the same concern for safety as we do when it comes to so many other areas.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winter Break Revelations

We returned to school this week after our nondenominational winter pause.  The return of students after break reminds me of when my daughter spends the weekend at grandmas- all rules, guideline, and procedures, no matter how basic, need to be refreshed, re-modeled, and practiced.

Students are also super excited to share what they did over their respective breaks.  One of our third graders piped up right away on Monday.  "My auntie had to go to the hospital!"  The teachers showed concern and asked why (always a dangerous invitation with little ones...), and the child revealed her aunt had a baby over break.

Those who work with elementary students (particularly young ones) know that this exchange now invited 25 other children to raise their hands (or simply blurt out) anything that had to do with hospitals, doctors, babies, aunts, winter break, or anything else for that matter.

Little Xavier struck first.  "Yeah, we had to take to my sister to the hospital too."  The teacher was pretty much obligated to show the same concern and again inquire what had happened.

"Awww, she partied too hard and shook it till she broke it."

Having had all of this little boy's sisters, the teacher wisely elected to inquire no further.