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THE VIEW FROM HERE: To open or not to open, that is the question

Whoever is tasked with making the judgment call on whether or not to open or cancel schools because of a storm has a most unenviable job because, truthfully, there is no way to please everyone.
Whoever is tasked with making the judgment call on whether or not to open or cancel schools because of a storm has a most unenviable job because, truthfully, there is no way to please everyone. - 123RF Stock Photo

It has been a few years since I have been in school, but I well remember when I was a youngster how excited I was when I heard that classes were cancelled because of a snowstorm or some other weather event like an ice storm or the occasional hurricane.

No, children should not expect snow days, but come on. We were all children at one time in our lives. You can’t tell me that when you were a child you didn’t enjoy a day home from school because the roads were too nasty to get to class.

If you are being honest, I am willing to bet that 99.99 per cent of you enjoyed a good ole fashioned snow day just as much as the next person. I didn’t say 100 per cent because I know there’s always one or two who will always break the mould.

Seriously though, in this part of the country, snow days have always come with the territory and when we were kids, we took them in stride, enjoying the freedom and we embraced the brief respite from school, even if it was just one day. Then, when we became adults with children of our own, we accepted snow days as a necessity to keep our children safe and secure.

Today though, the question of snow days has taken on a sense of urgency that we’ve not experienced in the past. The debate reared its head most recently last month when several late winter storms lead to school closures, stirring the pot of controversy once again. I have many theories as to why that is, but for me, it’s all about the safety of the children and everything else is a secondary consideration.

Are snow days the ideal solution to this debate? Perhaps not, but honestly, when it comes to the safety of children and putting buses on the roads in the middle of a major weather event, is there any other choice? As for children who don’t take the bus, they also deserve the same consideration as those who are bussed, including those who walk to school.

While I know that the debate over snow days has become a hot potato topic in recent years, at the risk of taking sides in the argument, I am going to venture into the debate. Essentially then, I am going to err on the side of safety.

We’ve heard the arguments against snow days such as these that can be found on the website

  • Definitely not necessary. Might as well cancel work places or close stores every time there’s an inch of snow on the ground if we have to cancel school whenever it snows at all. Yeah, in the winter it snows! Get used to it. Why, after all of this time, aren’t we prepared enough to have kids make up days?
  • I believe that the majority of snow days are unnecessary. Although it is sometimes necessary to take precautions in order to protect students, the amount of snow is often not enough to impact the ability of students to get to school. However, if bus routes are dangerous or students in outlying areas cannot get to school, their parents should be able to call and get them excused for the day.
  • If the weather conditions are so severe that children must stay home from school, there is still a viable way through technology to have kids still complete any class work that otherwise would have been missed. Most schools issue iPads or laptops and kids should be able to log on to a school website to complete work, thus eliminating the need for the time away from the classroom to be classified as a snow day.

Then there are the arguments in favour of snow days:

  • Most snow days are necessary. In some cases, school boards wait too long to determine whether a snow day should be used or not. This puts children in danger and causes parents to worry unnecessarily. The safety of our children should be the paramount concern of our school systems.
  • No, snow days are necessary. When it comes to safety, there should not be the discussion of necessary versus unnecessary. Most people would rather take the risk of being over cautious and nothing happen, rather than be not cautious enough and tragedy strike. Although snow days may be an annoyance for some, the safety of children is far more important.
  • It’s better to be safe than for kids to be seriously injured by a bus flipping or leaving the road. There should not be a debate this issue.

Let’s be honest. Whoever is tasked with making the judgement call on whether or not to open or cancel schools because of a storm has a most unenviable job because, truthfully, there is no way to please everyone.

There will always be questionable calls but in recent years, the trend has done an about face as officials have almost become too timid in deciding if the schools should or not. There have been days in recent years when I’ve been on the road and thought that schools should not be open, yet they were.

It’s a no-win situation, to be sure. However, when it comes to snow days, I think the choice is clear — officials must always err on the side of safety and that’s the view from here.

Vernon Oickle was born and raised in Liverpool where he continues to reside with his family. He has worked for more than 30 years in community newspapers on the South Shore and is the author of 28 books.

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