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Come on Schools — More Polar Vortex School Closings?

She’s back!

Published in ChicagoNow, January 8, 2015

Evanston elementary schools are closed again today. Like lemmings, suburban districts seem to feel obliged to follow the decisions of the Chicago Public School system, even if their issues are not comparable. I have to wonder if the deciders really think kids will be safer left home alone, some without the meals they count on from school, because their parents’ employers don’t give them what we used to call “snow days.”

Last January, I reacted to the first school closing in a humorous vein. On January 6 when school did not reopen following so-called winter vacation, my first post, Frozen – The Real Deal, included lists of ways to pass the day suggested by my granddaughter. A less funny post, Still Frozen – Another No School Day, followed this one. By this second post, school closings were starting to feel wrong. In fact, for one of my grandkids with special needs, the inconsistency of a second day off was (and still is) a disaster.

As I did last year, I started to look ahead this morning to see how many non-attendance days were already on the calendar for the coldest months of winter. Surely after last winter, some adjustments had been made. Well, not really.

 January 14 – Half-day for “School Improvement” meetings that take place one Wednesday/month

 January 19 – Martin Luther King Day

 February 4 – Another Half-Day for “School Improvement”

 February 13 – Just a day off to create a long weekend because…

 February 16 – Presidents’ Day

 March 2 – Pulaski Day (I know, most of you don’t know who he was)

There are only two 5-day weeks scheduled between now and March 16. Amazing. The kids still only have 176 required attendance days, six of which are those “School Improvement” half-days.

I had a pretty good solution last January, and I still feel the same way:

“Let’s look at some of the school “holidays” that break up the calendar into so many short weeks: Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, King’s Birthday, Presidents’ Day, Pulaski Day (If you don’t live in Illinois, I hope you googled that one), and Memorial Day. Even allowing for the first and last being potential family vacation time, why not have school on the other four days and spend the time learning about the people behind the holiday? Wouldn’t that be a better way to honor them?”

By January 30 of last year, my grandson had missed 14 days of preschool due to school closings. I begged to Send This Boy to School. In that blog I empathized with administrators who have to make these tough decisions about school closings. I’ve been there and understand that, no matter what you choose, half of the parents and teachers will disagree with you. At the same time, I started to wonder if it might be okay to open schools and let parents decide what is better and safer for their children.

As much of the country looks like Arendelle under Elsa’s spell in Frozen, we may need to accept that climate change is real and that winters may be like this for years to come. It’s time to figure out better ways to deal with the Polar Vortex pattern than closing our schools. Like Idina Menzel’s unfortunate New Year’s Eve performance of Let It Go, our schools just can’t hit the right note here.

Yes, we are tired of Frozen, but here it is again. If you have any suggestions for better ways to deal with it than more school closings, please comment.


by Laurie Levy
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