Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow Woes

A recent Lincoln Journal Star editorial lambasts Lincoln Public Schools for calling off school on Wednesday. I think the article is a bit unfair because we were in a winter storm warning, and to ignore that would have put the safety of students in peril. LPS has well over 30,000 students and many walk to classes. My gosh, the same time LPS gets hammered by the paper for not holding class, the Omaha World Herald has an article about two middle aged women (two separate instances) who died of exposure in the recent storm.

Norris called off school on Wednesday, too. The paper has been reluctant to criticize other area or county schools for this decision, perhaps due to some recognition that we have many rural roads that were dangerously drifted and others that were simply impassable. (I know this by my own eyewitness account of the roads on these last few days, but also from reports from other staff members in the know). We would have risked very unsafe driving conditions Wednesday afternoon (heavy snow was already piling up and winds were stirring) had we went ahead and tried to hold school. Even yesterday was flat out nasty. I drove out here in the morning to get to the office and South 68th, a fairly major thoroughfare in these parts, was only one lane in three or four spots due to the big snow banks and the encroaching snow on the west side.

Snow days stink. They throw everyone off their routine. Parents resent snow days for understandable reasons: while schools close based on the student safety premise, most other businesses and organizations remain open regular hours, and parents are put in a real dilemma. They’re having to take time off when daycare plans haven’t been made. In some cases, parents have already worked through those contingencies, but in most families it’s planning on the fly. There were lots of discussions (and probably more than a few arguments) over the last several snow days in homes throughout Nebraska about who was going to be responsible for kid care and who was going to get to go into work, or how the days would be split so both mom and dad could try to both be stay-at-home parents and still show up at work.

If you’re like me at all, you too thrive on routine. I genuinely believe kids thrive on that routine, too. And it is hard to stay on a disciplined schedule with the youngsters when a snow day is followed by another which is followed by another. To make matters worse, conditions were so brutally bad outside that it wasn’t like you could send the kids out for a little physical activity. Not unless you wanted to risk them suffering from exposure! These last few days were definitely not “Let’s go sled at Pioneers Park” conditions. I’m a school person, so – I love school. And my strong preference is for school to be in session! At this point, with two three-day stretches of snow days already this winter, cabin fever among the kids was reaching unheard-of proportions. Let’s face it, even for the most doting, loving, caring parents – too much ‘quality time’ pent up with your kids can get to be a test of patience that is as extreme as the temps.

I’ve attached a couple photos to this article that show the enormous pile of snow that had to be cleared away from South 120th in order for the road to be passable. Wednesday night through Saturday morning, it was impossible for traffic to drive south down South 120th south of Firth Road. I couldn’t get to my sons to pick them up Thursday or Friday. It was simply drifted shut, and our county road workers were too busy working major roads to be able to get to this more remote area. While I describe this area as more remote, hey, it’s still Lancaster County and it was a not uncommon plight for many Norris district residents over the last four days.

I am hopeful we won’t get blasted with too much more severe weather this winter. We have already reclaimed January 18th as a student day. Here’s hoping we don’t have to amend the calendar much more this season. Let me know your thoughts on the recent snow days. (Please, no more ominous predictions from the Farmers’ Almanac!)