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The Day I Cancelled School
February 7, 2014 - Al Stephenson
It happened over 30 years ago. For a few years while teaching at New Riegel High School, I also was a full time bus driver. One winter morning I left my house in Tiffin to head for my school bus at NRHS. My first clue that the roads were very icy was the fact that in that short drive I saw five cars in the ditch. If that wasn't proof enough, I slid past my intended turn off of Rt. 224. I managed to make the next exit, all the time wondering whether this was a good day to have school.
When I reached the school, two drivers were already warming up their buses. After a brief consultation with them, I called the superintendent to express my concerns. He asked if I thought school should be cancelled and I answered affirmatively. He then surprised me by telling me to start my phone chain while he called the radio station. School was closed for the day and I took credit for it.
Now my guess is that the super was already mulling over the possibility of calling off school and my information made his decision a relatively easy one. That would be the exception, not the norm. Whether school is delayed, cancelled or goes as scheduled is rarely an easy decision. This winter the decisions have had to be made by the bucket loads. Mother Nature has given us a nasty winter and local schools are well past the number of calamity days built into their calendars.
I bring this story up because yesterday I subbed at Columbian High School. I had a student ask me the following question. "Do you think we should have had school today?" It was a legitimate question as several districts did cancel on Thursday. More shut down today, including Columbian, while others went after a two hour delay.
I know people get upset when school is cancelled. Others become unhappy when school is in session on suspect weather days. The decision is never easy, but someone has to make the call. Either way it goes, some people will complain, sometimes loudly, that school officials don't know what they are doing. I think that is grossly unfair.
There are any number of factors to consider when making a decision to delay or cancel school. First and foremost is the safety of the students. Whether they walk, drive or ride a bus to school - getting them to the school safely is the primary concern. If school officials are to make a judgment, it is better to error on the side of caution. Learning, on the other hand, suffers when kids go a couple of days and then miss two only to have the same thing happen week after week like this winter. Making up days will not be convenient for many people no matter when you schedule them.
The view from my seat suggests that parents, teachers, students, bus drivers and all concerned should hold off on the criticism. People who make these decisions have an extremely difficult job and usually do it quite well. While it might not satisfy everyone, each decision is made with careful thought and input from a lot of different people.
I should know. I made the decision once, or at the very least helped make it.
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