It is 10:32 a.m., January 2, and I am just getting started on my workday. I’d planned on being up bright and early and having a productive day that started at 8 a.m. but Wake County Public Schools decided to implement a 2-hour delayed start because it’s cold outside.
The official statement had to do with the concern that buses wouldn’t start reliably after having sat idle over the holiday week in cold temperatures, but plenty of people weighed in on social media about kids not having coats, it being too cold at the bus stop, and so on.
Were it not for the fact that WCPSS has been known to close schools in the mere anticipation of snow, and keep them closed for up to two weeks after a minor snow event, and were it not for their inability to be proactive in clearing school parking lots and doing absolutely everything in their power to mitigate the questionable dangers of what is usually a very minor weather event, I might shrug my shoulders and say “meh” to the school delay.
But here’s the thing. The WCPSS Senior Director of Transportation (Robert Snidemiller, last I checked, although I challenge anyone reading this to find information online about who runs the taxpayer funded WCPSS Transportation department) earns a lot of money to run a complex department. Shouldn’t part of that job entail finding ways to proactively address the potential negative impacts of cold weather and occasional snow that occurs during a small period of the school year but which has major impacts on student and parent schedules?
The weather has been cold – thirties and below – for about a week. We are coming to the end of the holiday break and students will be returning to school. This isn’t news. Wouldn’t reason dictate that a plan would have been put in place months ago that included checking the school buses over the weekend to ensure they are in proper working order?
Let’s suppose there are contingency plans … well, no, never mind. Because if there were, staff would have known the buses would be okay, and no delay would be necessary …
So let’s move on to the other argument – this one being from parents and others who’ve weighed in on the issue – and that is the fact that many kids don’t have coats, it’s too cold at the bus stop, the kids may get frostbite, the schools need time to warm up, and so on.
It may be true that there are kids without proper cold weather gear. It is also true that there are many organizations providing coats, gloves, and scarves to kids in need. It is further true that should a child need a pair of gloves, they can visit any school’s lost and found on any given day and find and find a virtual menagerie of gloves abandoned by their owners, just waiting to warm someone’s hands.
It is also true that many kids, from many types of families, go to the bus stop in shorts and/or t-shirts in 20 degree weather, regardless of the best intentions of the adults responsible for them. They do this because they’re kids and kids do stupid things. I have not heard of a single instance on the news in which a kid from the WCPSS school system was found frozen or suffered the blackened fingers and toes of severe frostbite.
Also, according to the National Weather Service, frostbite is extremely rare and highly unlikely in 15 degree temperatures with little to no wind chill.
I would like to point out that the Baltimore County Public School System opened on time today. It was 18 degrees there this morning with snow on the ground. The Rochester, New York school system opened on time today. It is currently 18 degrees there. I am NOT saying we do it better up north. Just pointing out some areas that experience some serious cold in the winter.
In regard to school temperatures – I doubt school heating systems are programmed to fall below a reasonable temperature. And, if schools have been out for a week and the temperatures have been below 30 degrees, I should think this is also something that could have been adjusted by a proactive maintenance department, to allow for sufficient heat on the first day back.
Look, it’s no secret that I dislike the constant disruption of schedules that comes from WCPSS. There is already significant complexity for the multitude of parents who have kids at different stages of education on different calendars. The decision to delay or even close schools only adds to the problem. Closing school means Saturday makeup days for year-round kids, and shortening of spring break for traditional kids. Closing school and even a two-hour delay means parents scrambling to figure out child-care arrangements, disruption of their work schedules, and so on. It does have a measurable impact.
So the school delay and closing thing is a problem that warrants attention and at the very least some attempt at proactivity that would help keep schools operating on a normal schedule whenever possible. If cold temperatures are really a problem that WCPSS can’t figure out how to mitigate, shouldn’t we should all be asking why?
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