Many parents complain that the school districts in the region cancel school even before a flake of snow falls and they want to know why.
First let’s look at how things were. When I was a kid in the 1950s and 60s, most of us walked to school. The kids weren’t on school property until they stepped onto the school grounds. This meant far less liability risk for the school as it was the parents responsibility to get their kids to the school yard. Folks back in the days of June and Ward Cleaver also didn’t sue over any and everything as so many do today. As a result of these things, they rarely canceled school. I remember walking to school with snow up to my knees. We wore those pain-in-the neck rubber boots over our leather shoes and were bundled up with scarves, hats, gloves and our winter coat and trudged off to school carrying our bagged lunch and our books. As kids, we didn’t mind, we’d have snow ball fights, running and playing as we made our way to school.
Today most kids ride school buses, so once they get onto a school bus they are on school property, making the district liable for the journey to and from the school yard. Also people will sue for any and everything these days, so school administrators walk in constant fear of getting sued for some issue or other. Imagine the lawsuit that would happen if a school bus full of kids slid off Route 41 or 896 and hit a telephone poll injuring many kids or worse yet, killing some kids.
Some have said, why not have a half day? Consider what it costs to run the building heaters when school is in session versus the overnight cooler setting. The cost of gasoline the buses require to make the trip to and from the school yard. Having an abbreviated day due to snow is very costly especially given how little actual learning will happen that day. I believe all of these things, including our children’s safety, play into the administrators decision of just playing it safe and not having school.
Sadly, far too many parents, especially working moms, view school as a free day care service for them, which is why many young mothers want year ‘round schools. Then they‘d not have to pay day care costs at all, because we the taxpayers would be footing the bill. The reason these working moms get upset with schools being closed is when that happens they’ve either got to find a place to dump their kids so they can go to work or they lose a day from work, for many that means losing a day‘s pay.
Bottom line is whether folks will sue, or be upset because they’ve got to miss a day’s pay being home with their kids, the schools must make the decision on the safety of everyone’s child. Nothing less is acceptable. Better to lose a day’s pay than to lose your child in a bus accident. The only other way around this problem is for taxpayers to pony up tons of money to build many more schools near where kids live so they can walk to school as I did back in the 1950s and 60s. Suddenly school closing for snow doesn’t sound so bad, eh?
Mike Cannatelli lives in suburban Wilmington with his wife. He repairs electronic instrumentation the food industry uses to detect bacteria in food. He plays supper club music on the piano and is a voracious reader who is a registered Independent voter.