Canceling school so quickly when it snows has consequences

One of the biggest responsibilities I feel I have as a parent is to keep my children safe. That said, I am bewildered by the school superintendent’s decision-making when it comes to canceling school.

By 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, the day before the big storm, School Supt. Jim Agostine made the choice to cancel school for Friday because of the impending storm. From what I observed, that was six hours before any of the other local school systems made a decision about Friday. Why was that decision made so quickly?

I understand the need to be safe, but was any consideration given to having school, and then to call an early dismissal if the roads were to get bad?

One thing hasn’t changed in the years since I went to school  — buses are heavy, and they can easily drive through a few inches of snow.

The reality is, there was no real accumulation on Friday morning, and the roads were fine. Those on the roads simply drove slower.

 

Safety issues occur every day

Just now (Sunday afternoon), I received an email from Supt. Agostine saying that school is closed Monday. Why?

He points out in his communication that some roads are narrow, due to the plowing? Yes, with all the snow, some are. Sight lines challenged? Indeed, and we will all need to take our time making turns.

Possible freezing rain on Monday morning? Perhaps a delayed school opening could have been considered.

As safety conscious as I am, I think it’s ridiculous to be frittering away another school day for these reasons. When buses and commuters take things a little slower, and use discretion — which is a reasonable expectation in challenging weather conditions — the issue of safety is virtually no different than any other day.

 

Just the threat of bad weather…

Before you dismiss me as a misinformed or derelict parent, I am highly educated, a safety conscious parent of four, and I run a successful business. I care about the safety of all children, not just my own.

But we can’t keep canceling school at the threat of bad weather, or because of an inch or two of snow. It sends a terrible message to children that they can forgo responsibilities when the weather is bad.

 

What lesson are we teaching youngsters?

Has anyone thought about what these actions are teaching kids? I see it too often with young people we hire at my business — at the threat of poor weather, they become paralyzed with fear.

The precedent was set when they were going to school, when they were indirectly taught that everything stops when there is snow, or the threat of it.

Not too long ago, snow days were a rare special occasion — when there was a lot of snow on the ground, school was canceled. Today, canceling school is commonplace, at least in Monroe.

The consequences? Aside from the poor message being ingrained in our children about how to handle inclement weather, the school year extends until nearly July, which is ridiculous.

 

Finding a reason to have school

While there are times when it is prudent to declare a snow day, greater effort should be made, without turning a blind eye to safety, to find a reason to have school.

The vision for the Monroe school system, as written on the website, is to “set the standard for excellence in public education for the state of Connecticut and beyond.” To me, excellence includes leadership that exercises sound judgment, and uses common sense when making important decisions.

Canceling school would qualify as an important decision — and while there are times when it is prudent to declare a snow day, greater effort should be made, without turning a blind eye to safety, to find a reason to have school.

Is it too much to expect a little common sense around how to handle school closures and the weather?

Dan Slattery is a Monroe resident and parent.

 

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