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.




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