Snow day!

On most work days I get up at 4:25AM. This gives me enough time to shower, get dressed, take the dog out, feed the cats, make coffee, eat a sensible breakfast, drink coffee and read the local newspaper before driving 40 or so minutes to school in order to arrive early enough to find a parking space on the street before school starts at 8:00.

It snowed a lot last night and this morning the wind is howling with 40mph gusts and blowing sharp, icy snow around in swirls that look like white dust storms. I set my alarm for this morning a half-hour earlier than usual so that I could take extra time driving to work. I knew the schools where I live would be closed today, but I expected NYC schools to be open. Just to be prudent, I checked the procedures for announcing delayed openings and school closings, and re-read the protocols on what to do if schools need to be closed early.

I don’t know if it some macho thing or just recognition of the NYC schools’ essential role as day-care center cum delinquency & teen crime prevention agency, but New York City public schools almost never close for snow. President Obama chides the District of Columbia schools for closing for a little ice, but the Chicago schools close more often than those in NYC. Okay, Chicago usually gets more snow, but NYC is still stingy when it comes to school closings.

In NYC, school closings, if they are to occur at all, are announced between 4:00 and 6:00 in the morning. I checked the Department of Educations homepage to see if an announcement had been made for the first time at 4:01. Nope. I checked again when I came out of the shower. Nope.

I went downstairs, fed the cat, started the coffee maker and let the dog out. I enjoyed watching my aging Lab-setter mix became a puppy again as he ran and played in the snow with a big smile on his face (anyone who says dogs can’t smile has never owned a Lab or setter). Back inside, 5:00 now, I checked again. Aha! There was now a notice on the DOE homepage that said “Any changes in school opening times or school closings will be announced here.” Those teases!

Quick poll: should I drink a cup of the coffee I’d made and commit to being awake, or should I abstain in order to quickly get back to sleep if the schools were eventually closed? What to do, what to do? As I dithered around trying to make this decision I checked the DOE website relentlessly and ate a bowl of Joe’s-Os (those product placement guys need to discover the power of blogs) with blackberries (the fruit). Finally, at 5:50AM, I poured myself a cup of coffee, took a sip and checked my email. At 5:55 I finished my first cup of coffee and gathered my materials for the workday, and checked again. Still no announcement. I filled my travel mug, put on my coat, and was just about to put on my gloves when I decided to check one more time.

Now its 6:30 and I really regret that first sip of coffee.


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3 Responses to Snow day!

  1. Jeanne Piro says:

    Why is there such a huge hesitation to close the schools? Is it really the baby-sitting issue or is it financial in some way? But you’re right – the potential teasing factor hangs out the night before..when all the other schools had already announced closings, we were still waiting.

    • The hesitation to close the schools is a remnant of an earlier age when almost all the teachers lived in the city and moved around using mass transit. It is the same reason why very few NYC schools have parking lots. Those days are gone. As teacher salaries have risen, many have moved to the suburbs, but to the more distant suburbs because house prices there are low enough to be affordable.

      Because they teach students who, for the most part, walk to school, and NY does not have much mass transit from the suburbs in which teachers can afford to live, they must drive to work. The Mayor and his Chancellor require teachers to come to work even though they live in suburbs that close schools because the roads are not safe for students to be driven to school; they come to work even though the mayor is telling City residents to use mass transit instead of driving.

      The Chancellor will tell you that he doesn’t want the students to lose important class time, and that may be part of the motivation, but I think a minor part. The City builds-in more days of schooling than the 180 the state requires; this school year most grades are scheduled for 183 days of instruction. This snow day, the first since January 2004, still leave two more instructional days than the state requires. I think there are financial reasons for keeping school open as well as the need for custodial care of the students as the parents work, but there is one other reason the schools rarely close: teachers get paid for today even though we’re not working, and it just pains the Chancellor and Mayor to see us getting something for nothing, usually a privilege only of the leisure class.

  2. [...] I wrote about that little bureaucratic snafu that morning. [...]

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