On Closing School, Version 2

Back in October I wrote my first entry on school closings – the difficulty of the decision, getting it right, getting it wrong, timing of storms, communications.

Since then, we have made two bad calls:

  1. Several weeks ago we opened per usual and suddenly, at arrival time, we got three inches of snow in about an hour.  Roads were super slick, accidents all over the place, and the driveways in our schools were a mess.
  2. Two weeks ago we called for a delay based on a really bad forecast.  Of course, basically nothing happened.

In both cases, BVP followed the path of the sending districts.  Both times were misses.

Today, as we prepare for the blizzard of a lifetime, school is closed.  Based on the forecasted timing and intensity of the storm, some things are obvious: it would be crazy to have school events Friday night or Saturday.  It would also be a bad idea to have kids on buses at 5PM.

But, why not a half day?  With the forecast of a few inches by 2PM, why not have scholars come in from 7:30-11:30 and get a bunch of hard work in the books? (get it, it’s a pun, “in-the-books”).  We have learning to do, right?!

I exchanged tweets with meteorologist Fred Campanga and confirmed in my mind the right decision – let’s have a half-day.

And then it started. A few schools starting to cancel, including Providence.  And then a few more.  At 2PM on Thursday we joined a call with RIEMA directed by RIDE and the Governor’s Office.  Without a drop of snow on the ground, district by district announced they would cancel.  A few have teachers coming in for a 1/2 day, and only a couple were considering 1/2 with kids and teachers.

But the sense of superintendents bullying one another into closing was palpable – and one superintendent called it out directly to say, “I don’t want to cancel, but how can I stay open when everyone around me is closing without a drop of snow on the ground?”

And one school, whose principal I later called to praise – she goes by “No Close Rose” – explained to me her thinking: parents have to go to work, kids have to learn, kids need to eat.  There is urgent work to do.

I pitched to my own leadership team the idea of at least having staff come in to get some of our urgent work done – that’s the complaint people have – not enough time to work together.  They looked at me like I had six heads…one suggested I would be thrashed with pitchforks (I’m not sure if she meant the teachers would do that to me or if she was speaking for herself…).

So today, BVP is closed.  I’m going in this morning.  There’s work to do!

And what is one very real consequence?

Despite our longer day, if we fall below 180 days, BVP will need to make up time.  We are prohibited from going into July for days, so that means adding on days at the end of June, running full school days on Good Friday, April Break, and/or Saturdays.  In just learning that days with two-hour delays may not count as official days, our six day buffer because of our 186 day calendar is down to two after today.  Plus, there’s a very good chance roads and sidewalks will still be impassable on Monday…  

So, let’s hope this is the last of the storms this winter, because I for one would like to go away for April break!