When the Times last Tuesday posted on its Facebook page that school on Wednesday would – for the second day in a row after being cancelled entirely by the governor on Monday, Jan. 6 – start two hours late, a reader posted a comment, wondering just how much warmer it would be at 10 a.m. than 8 a.m.
The answer? Not much warmer at all.
Which gets to the heart of the debate over cancelling or delaying school because of nasty winter storms and blizzards, and cancelling or delaying school because of cold temperatures and harsh wind chills.
It makes more sense to do the former than it does the latter.
If it’s stormy and the wind is howling, visibility is essentially non-existent in open areas and the snow is piling up, it’s very difficult for people to get around and it makes sense to cancel classes, start late, or get out early. If someone gets stuck in the snow out in the middle of nowhere and no one can get to them to help, it becomes a potentially life-threatening situation.
But when it’s just plain really cold, and even a breeze is enough to make wind chills qualify as dangerous, people can still get around. They can still see where they’re going and, chances are, they’re not going to get stuck in the snow. Buses are still going to start and bus drivers are still going to be able to navigate their routes.
Speaking of buses, one could argue that if school is delayed two hours like it was for two consecutive days last week, more kids are going to be exposed to the frigid air than had school started on time because their parents are going to have a harder time getting away from work in the middle of the morning to pick them up and bring them to school. If a family’s typical morning routine involves parents dropping off kids at school on their way to work, that doesn’t guarantee that parents are going to be able to stick to their routine if school is delayed for two hours. That means more kids standing at bus stops, exposed to all that cold.
Whether it’s the city council, school board or county board, we have a fair amount of local elected officials who often voice their concerns about setting various precedents when they need to vote on this thing or that. They don’t want to potentially lock themselves or future elected officials into seeing things a certain way if future, similar issues arise.
Page 2 of 2 - So, given that, are we saying that every time the thermometer in the dead of winter drops to 25 below zero we’re going to delay the start of school?
Yes, last week’s decisions were more about wind chill than actual temperature. But on Wednesday morning, it was calm. The local weather website indicated it was 27 below zero, and that the wind chill was 27 below as well because there was no wind. It was just a really cold morning in January, and that’s all.
If the wind chill is capable of causing frostbite if the skin is exposed too long, and is maybe even life-threatening if people are outside for a prolonged period, wouldn’t it be best for everyone if we all knew where our kids were...safe and warm in school?