Parents Perspective

The Snow Day Hustle

I actually like snow. I like the way it looks on the trees. I like how it absorbs the sound of the traffic on busy streets. I like how excited my kids get when even a flurry falls from the sky. And of course I love sledding, snowball fights, and snowmen (especially into all the Olafs I see in front yards). But what I don't like.... Snow Days.

Today is a Snow Day #3 in my kid's school district this year. They will stay home again. My office is open. So is my husband's. He drives 35 miles to the snowier part of the region (Long Island). I take a train to Manhattan. Both modes of transportation are slower than usual so we left earlier to get to work on time. It's what you do in the winter.  In fact, in my office only two staffers out of 60 couldn't make it in due to the snow today. This is becoming the norm. It snows. You put your boots on. You walk more carefully, you drive more carefully, and you go to work. Why are schools the exception?

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The trouble is, as all parents know, when schools close, your entire eco-system breaks down. Suddenly you have 7 hours of childcare you have to fill in 5 minutes -- and everyone in town is after the same sitter. Likely you will have to shell out $15 or more an hour for your sitter. That's $105, minimum. And when schools cancel, so do the after-school activities that often don't get made up (there goes $25 a pop Spanish class). And the private preschools usually close too "because the public schools are closed." Wham! Your babysitting rate just got even higher. And what, god forbid, do you do if you can't get a sitter? You'd have to say home from work yourself. Depending on your job situation, this may mean being docked pay or forced vacation. Or worse.

Let me note that in my district there are no school buses. All the kids live within walking distance to / from their school. Only the school staff have to drive to school. Sure, it's likely that one or two of them, like in my own office, can't make it in. But should the entire school be closed for those one or two people? Can we not call in a local sub for those teachers who live far away? The administration should know which staffers live on giant hills in areas the snow plows don't reach and make plans accordingly for the days when they are stuck at home.

In other parts of the country where districts are large and everyone has to drive to work and take the bus to school, it makes sense to cancel school if driving is unsafe. In those cases, it's likely too dangerous for you to drive to work either. Ye-ha! Let's all have a snow day! And no babysitter required. (You even get to help build Olaf!) But in many places, it makes sense for schools to stay open. In fact, maybe we change our thinking: Since schools have such an impact on the entire community, perhaps they open earlier and stay later to accommodate everyone else? After all, it's a public institution -- one that we all pay for with our taxes. It should be flexible to accommodate extraordinary situations when they occur. It's certainly better than the alternative ... causing a domino effect that just wrecks havoc on working families.

What do you guys think? Should schools be stricter on calling snow days? Or am I just a snow-day grinch?

Meanwhile, I'm sending my sitter this video: Snow Day Ice Cream, anyone?

Need inspiration for fun things to do around the house? Check out these kid-friendly crafts using household items!