Closing Schools for Cold: The Debate

Filed in National by on January 7, 2014

Several school districts in Delaware are closed today for the bitter cold. I personally disagreed with this decision. Until I read the former Rsmitty’s post on Facebook about it, which I am republishing here:

Yeah, 25+ years ago, many had one parent at work and the other parent at home to make sure you left the house bundled up like little brother Randy from The Christmas Story. In 2013, this ideal is far less reality and more dreamt about. Either both parents work or the only parent of the household is working, creating a whole different dynamic than that of Carol and Mike Brady (they also had Alice to help…but they lived in California…lazy bums). There is also the reality that in many cases, today’s students don’t have a warm car (if it even starts tomorrow) to wait in at the bus stop or to ride in to get to school. It is also a reality that some of today’s students don’t have adequate coats for single-digit temps, let alone -20 wind chills, if not lower. Why do you think coat drives are such a HUGE deal? Remember what is impacted by wind chills: HUMANS. So, the low is supposed to be +2 to +7, but the wind chills -20 or lower. Frost bite in minutes, hypothermia moments later. That cozy winter coat you might have gotten for Christmas isn’t even adequate for -20, unless you got it from an outdoorsman oriented store, specifically for high-altitude mountain trekking in the winter. But, it’s not just a coat. Thick mittens, not gloves, mittens, are necessary. Knit-style hat? Of course. Better have a scarf, too. Goggles, yes goggles, as well, since the surface of your eyes, seriously, are in equal danger from that exposure. No small amount of exposed flesh is safe from this, not a bit. Yup, it’s inconvenient that I have to be home tomorrow, but on the contrary, my kids are never inconvenient to me, neither is the notion that a less-forunate kid is better off for this decision.

And…yes…schools from New England through the upper Midwest are all closed, we are not an anomoly. In the reality of 2013, where far too many kids are left to grow up with decisions on their own far more quickly than we were, for whatever circumstance, this is fine on the broader spectrum. I, for one, will not be seeking to “vote out the school board” or make the superintendent stand up to explain himself to the taxpayers over this. I instead will be happy my kids have a warm home and are still blissfully ignorant of the crap that awaits them as adults.

I might also note two other issues that factored into the decision to close schools. First, the crossing guards for walking students (of which there are many in the city and in Brandywine Hundred), would have to be out in this cold for four straight hours. Second, schools with trailers that serve as classrooms. Not only would the trailer themselves be cold, but the walk for the students back and forth to the main school building.

Err on the side of caution.

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  1. Mike Matthews says:

    I am with you on erring on the side of caution. Full disclosure: I am a teacher.

    I stepped outside this morning — 20 minutes ago to be exact. I was wearing a jacket (not appropriately thick) and no gloves or headgear. I just had to get something from the car. I stepped out. I thought “Wow, this isn’t too bad.” Then I felt the wind. And even though it still didn’t FEEL too cold, when I stepped back inside, I realized the effects had already taken place. 20 minutes later my hands are still freezing and when I came back in the house they were starting to tingle. I was outside for two minutes, tops. Needless to say, it freaked me out.

    Then, I began to think of the students served at my school. Standing for 20-30 minutes at the bus stop. No gloves. No hat. Thin coats. No bueno. Smitty’s post hit it dead-on. Thanks for reposting.

  2. Dorian Gray says:

    Full disclosure, I have no dog in this fight. I really couldn’t care much less.

    However, this is utterly inane. 50 years ago hardly any kids got a ride anywhere. They walked to school or to the bus stop and waited. Whether or not there are two parents in the home… whether or not both parents work… you need to be prepared to dress your kid(s) appropriately for the weather. It’s the same trend as all the others recently and it’s so silly. No one is going to die if they stay out for 20 minutes dressed appropriately. How is this any different than a heavy rain?

    I walked the dog this morning at 0615. I walked to the bus stop at 0715 and waited 10 minutes. Put a hat and scarf on and stop grasping at any excuse you pampered sissies.

  3. Delaware Dem says:

    LOL, and the pot is stirred.

  4. Jason330 says:

    How is this any different than a heavy rain?

    I agree. School should be cancelled due to heavy rain.

  5. K says:

    The idea of dressing kids appropriately assumes that one owns clothing suitable for temperatures rarely experienced in this area, which is hardly a common sense way to make purchases.

  6. anon says:

    Sure, we don’t want kids with inadequate clothing walking to school, but what if they have inadequate heat (or no heat) at home, or inadequate food, or no supervision because they have one parent and that parent works?

    At least if kids are at school we know they’re warm, well-fed and supervised.

    Just a thought.

  7. Jason330 says:

    District Administrators have nothing but lose/lose choices.

  8. Joanne Christian says:

    Full Disclosure: I am not a teacher
    I adore RSmitty, Mike Matthews, and Jason30 as kid brothers who grew up to be great adults

    But, the other side of this 20-30 minute “travail” you subject 21st Century insulated, hermetically sealed American children to is and may want to consider is:

    1) School may be the “warmer” option for them than a colder, ill-heated home they are coming from.
    2) Those counting on Free and Reduced Lunch Program, just missed another 2 meals
    3) Parents w/o PTO or alternative, affordable daycare, just lost another day of pay OR locked the kids in, and are praying all goes well.
    4) Alternative heating methods in the home during this down time whether attended or unattended by an adult, could easily involve matches, tipped kerosene heaters, over-wired outlets for plug-ins, candles, oven doors open, etc……
    5) Any “cool” kid 13 and above decides what to wear as outerwear to school whether, mom, the school nurse, the teacher, or society deems is just “nuts”. Cold be damned–I’m not wearing socks……
    6) So why you may pine proactively about a student’s world 20 minutes before and after school, I’m worried about the greater 6.5 hours they were just cheated on many levels.
    7) Oh–and feeling cold now, may just be that life lesson of a) resiliencey, that absolutely is needed to be taught these days b) compassion, that when they are older our children will REMEMBER how cold they were and continue to donate to coat drives.
    8) So fellas—GET TO CLASS!!!

    And finally, my remarks aren’t to indict any school district or person responsible for a decision in this process. It’s one of those calls, you thought you had to make because of the world we tend to create now of “no discomfort for children” vs. life happens, sometimes inconvenient, and we press ahead. That’s all.

  9. Joanne Christian says:

    Everything jason said at 10:23, but I was in the middle of posting, hence didn’t see the summation.

  10. Dorian Gray says:

    @K Oh, come on. Really? What special clothing do you need to stand at a bus stop for 10 minutes in 5 degree F temps, a space suit? How about an extra sweater or a thermal underneath, a wool cap, gloves and a scarf. We’re not asking kids to climb Everest with a sherpa.

    It’s 20 degrees colder than a typical winter day in the northeast. This fixation on ‘extreme’ weather is maddening. It’s very cold out. It is not comfortable… so what. If kids don’t have coats or hats, say, that’s a big problem, but you can’t cancel life when it’s cold out.

  11. cassandra m says:

    Adding abit of snark, from a friend’s FB page:

    Ok, let me make sure I understand this. They are closing schools because it is COLD? What kind of pussies are we raising? They ask us for $200 North Face jackets, $300 Ugg boots and they are cold? They are not cold! Some of the homes they come from are cold! They can’t wait to get to school and get a warm classroom and WARM FOOD! The materials that their clothing is made from was not even invented when we were children! And when it was cold WE WANTED TO GO OUTSIDE! Without a coat because we wanted to be cute! So tomorrow they will cold, dumb, and hungry. Ok, I’m finished…

  12. John Young says:

    Sending your children out in this type of cold doesn’t make THEM tough, it makes YOU stupid. (in addition to mean, careless and negligent)

    The supers had a simple winning proposition: close schools today.

    It is the right decision.

  13. Joanne Christian says:

    And my daughter weighs in from ghetto Phoenix where she teaches—hey–“where’s my students’ day off when THEY START school in 110 degrees, walking w/ no water bottle…..”

    Just sayin………

    Love the Uggs and Northface cass….my youngest says it was the obvious Christmas gift dujour this year when she returned to school. WEAR THEM OUT BABY—SHOW THEM SUCKERS OFF!!!!

  14. Joanne Christian says:

    John, Bringing children into this world then makes us all stupid, mean, careless and negligent.

    But, I’ll work with that guilt in seeing they are as equipped w/ life skills to handle,,,well,,,,life.

    It’s these little lessons that PREPARES them for the greater lessons ahead. Incrementalization of progression to adulthood and independent survival.

    WHO is left to run hospitals, police stations, switchboards, the military, and just regular businesses etc., if we were all raised to think, “but I get a cold day pass on my attendance/rsponsibility” vs. a true weather impediment of snow drifts, black ice, flooded roads? And at what point are things too cold or too hot?

  15. Dorian Gray says:

    @John Young For the record, I never said people should send their kids out in dangerous condition to make them tough. I do think it’s dangerous and I still don’t no matter what anyone ‘feels.’ The ‘fact’ is it simply is not dangerous if you are dressed appropriately. Nobody is staying/sleeping out there. They are waiting for the bus. It’s 5 degrees F not approching absolute zero… Don’t fucking condesend or get self righteous on us. It is not negligent to bundle up a kid and send them off to school today. Buck up.

  16. pandora says:

    Not sure what I think about closing schools, but given that I (ME!!!) have a really nasty stomach virus I was thrilled that I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed. Yep, it’s all about me, and I feel awful.

    Basically, this was a no win situation, and I blame the weather channel. That channel is the scariest channel out there.

  17. Dana says:

    This discussion points out one very obvious fact: it’s not about education, but about the fact that we have transformed the public schools into social service agencies, needing to provide heat, two decent meals, and, in effect, day care services.

    But Mr 330 got it right: the school administration had only lose/lose choices, so the one they took was the one which leaves them with no legal liability. If schools are open, and a child is injured due to the weather, the schools could be sued.

  18. Dana says:

    Pandora, the Weather Channel has to try to make the weather exciting, or they get quick hits to check Local on the 8s, and then the viewers leave. But their attempts at naming winter storms aren’t getting much traction: the snow storm that hit here on the 2nd was supposedly “Winter Storm Hercules,” but CNN just called it “Nor’easter 2014.” (Maybe that means that we can’t have another one this year? 🙂 )

  19. Jason330 says:

    You know what I find shocking? Dana made two comments and didn’t say that this cold weather proves climate change is a hoax in either of them.

  20. Joanne Christian says:

    We’ll leave it alone at lose/lose situation, and see what happens whens “it’s too hot to keep these kids in school for make-up days……”

    Ask any teacher….they’d rather have a kid in school on a cold day, than a hot one. The stench is the dealbreaker :).

  21. Dana says:

    Mrs Christian, your students don’t bathe or use odorarm deunderant?

  22. Oh, man! It’s just too cold,
    The weather is just for the bold!
    Come out they won’t,
    The teachers said, “Don’t!”
    So the supers decided to fold!

  23. Joanne Christian says:

    Unfortunately for all Dana, whether they do or don’t–AXE and Merry Mango Deodorant can’t seem to carry the pre-pubescent to adolescent from 6AM to 3PM or later. It’s those hormones…….and for those who have still to embrace a hygiene routine, take some pity on the poor teacher!!! 🙂

  24. liberalgeek says:

    I will point out that the conditions this morning make a broken down bus a life-threatening situation, whether the kid is sitting on the bus or waiting for one that doesn’t come.

    It’s not like the Delaware schools are the sissies here. Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, etc. have all closed schools for the cold in the past week. Sure they have closed at lower temps, but they build their infrastructure for lower temps, too.

    So if Delaware had windchills around -60, could we close then? -40? What’s the number that’s right for the “toughen them up” crowd?

  25. Joanne Christian says:

    Well golly geek, since you’ve come out of hibernation to comment, I think that alone says it’s not cold enough :).

    It’s all relative. The school day is about over now. Lose/Lose. But if it happens again tomorrow, the score of discontent can be evened by “having school”!!!!!!

  26. The weather outside is frightful
    And these comments are all so insightful
    It’s colder than Nome
    So let’s all stay home
    ‘Cause the furnace is just so delightful.

  27. Even though our clothes are all concealing,
    This cold has my blood congealing,
    I’d rather stay home
    Than go out and roam,
    ‘Cause the fireplace is so appealing!

  28. Joanne Christian says:

    But if school doors are shut
    Social lifelines are cut
    And now kids are cold and unfed
    So open the gates
    Set out the lunch plates
    And, that’s taking care of cold butts.

  29. You think that it’s cold?
    Went to school in Portland, Maine!
    It never shut down.

  30. Dana says:

    Lost a comment to the spam queue, under the name The Haiku Avenger

  31. From the Rose Izzo Twitter account:

    Temp 9 >Is Global Warning real? I met Tom Wysmuller at #CPAC & we spoke about this myth ~~>visit to learn more. #Hoax
    Global Warming Hoax! Who is paying @SenatorReid @JohnCarneyDE @ChrisCoons & @SenatorCarper to push “Climate Change”?>

  32. liberalgeek says:

    Yep. That should wrap up the nomination for DelawarePolitics’ Conservative of the Year 2014.

    Congrats, loon!

  33. cassandra_m says:

    Finally! Somebody that FBH can enthusiastically vote for!

    You can stop spamming us with your Twitter feed Izzo.

  34. Jason330 says:

    “That should wrap up the nomination for DelawarePolitics’ Conservative of the Year 2014.”

    Someone could shoot an unarmed black kid. The year is young.

  35. Watching with interest says:

    I heard Gaffney and the usual ten freaks that call his show this morning using the cold snap as proof that there is no global warming, the decision to close the schools as proof of the liberal agenda destroying our country, and One guy’s idiotic comment about survival of the fittest to prove that evolution taught in school is a satanic evil (because no one who waves a bible around ever made a stupid comment or did anything horrible) In other words, it was usual Tuesday in Danny boy’s world. I have to wonder, is it just me, or has Gaffney collected more bugs in his head since he moved, ir is it me?

  36. kavips says:

    i hope they close schools tomorrow too… it will be just as cold, and we can do this all over again….

  37. Joanne Christian says:

    Yea……kinda like Ground Hog movie season anyway. My district is open, but leaving it up to me whether or not to send my child.

    I’m going all in. Making my kid leave the wagon at the busstop, so they can pick up wood on their way home. I am switching out mittens for gloves in light of the task they’ll be facing. OSHA, DFS, you know the hoops.

    Three Dog Night….cue it up El Som!!!!

  38. LeBay says:

    NCCSD was not very generous w/ snow days when I was a kid. I recall riding my bike to my local elementary school in Jan. 1981 during a cold snap. We were sent home because our elementary school’s boiler was broken. Our parents didn’t believe us until they got the call from the “phone tree.” Remember those?

    If nothing else, high schools should have had classes today.

  39. Dana says:

    The one year I went to school in Portland, the schools were never closed due to the weather. If schools closed in Maine for the weather here, they’d be closed for half of the winter.

    The rural areas might have been different.

  40. Liberal Elite says:

    NYTimes has an interesting take on this cold snap.

    Basically it suggests that global warming has destabilized the polar vortex, and that the warmer it gets, the more likely the polar vortex will slide off the North pole visit North America.

    So it may not be unreasonable to expect to see more of such events in the future.

  41. Delaware Dem says:

    That is correct LE. But of course the conservative idiots will say there is no global warming because it is cold.

    Our unavoidable future with climate change (because it is now too late to stop it) is that now all of our storms are more violent, in 100 years our state will cease to exist, and our winters are colder and our summers are hotter.

  42. Mike O. says:

    Red Clay is open today but Dickinson is closed due to plumbing problems (reportedly flooding). Word was a little slow getting out. I drove my son in and buses were arriving. Some buses had to drop off their kids and then go do their elementary routes. The school has heat, but students who made it to Dickinson are staying safely in the gym and cafeteria, and will be sent back to their bus stops as soon as their buses can come back. Word went out starting about 7:15 via several phone blasts and email, but is not listed on the DE school closing site as of this writing. I don’t know if any other schools are having similar problems.

  43. Dana says:

    DD wrote:

    Our unavoidable future with climate change (because it is now too late to stop it) is that now all of our storms are more violent, in 100 years our state will cease to exist, and our winters are colder and our summers are hotter.

    Cease to exist? Current projections from people who support the climate change theories have sea levels rising about one meter (roughly 39 inches) by 2100. The “worst” of the models had sea levels rising by 1.8 meters by 2100, or just a hair under six feet. How much of the first state would be flooded by those rises in sea level?

    Of course, if it is true that, as you said, “it is now too late to stop” climate change, then you are also saying, inter alia, that there’s no sense wasting money or impoverishing people attempting to try.

  44. Liberal Elite says:

    @Dana “The “worst” of the models had sea levels rising by 1.8 meters by 2100”

    The worst as in “least likely”?

    An 1.8 m local rise would basically destroy Delaware’s economy (except for a few chicken farms,…).

    And an average worldwide rise of 1.8 meters will not mean we’ll see that here.
    The sea level rise will NOT be uniform. If most of the melting is in Antarctica, then we could easily get a 3-4 meter rise while places like Argentina and South Africa would see virtually no rise.

  45. Ben (yes, THAT one) says:

    Mr Dana,
    do you think a 1.8 rise means the shoreline will move inland 1.8 meters…. or the actual sea level will rise about 5 feet? Because there is a HUGE difference between the 2, and I think you might have the wrong idea.

  46. Dana says:

    Ben asked:

    do you think a 1.8 rise means the shoreline will move inland 1.8 meters…. or the actual sea level will rise about 5 feet? Because there is a HUGE difference between the 2, and I think you might have the wrong idea.

    It means a rise in sea level, which would mean that everything built 12 feet above sea level would wind up 7 feet above sea level, and more prone to abnormally high tide flooding. The obvious question is: how much of the state of Delaware, which DD told us “will cease to exist,” is built at 12 feet or 20 feet above current sea levels? The answer is: some, but really not that much. It certainly wouldn’t overwash the whole state.

  47. Dana says:

    Mr Elite wrote:

    @Dana “The “worst” of the models had sea levels rising by 1.8 meters by 2100″

    The worst as in “least likely”?

    An 1.8 m local rise would basically destroy Delaware’s economy (except for a few chicken farms,…).

    “Worst” as in that is the largest sea level rise projected by any of the models; most are in the 1 meter range.

    The “official” elevation for Wilmington is 28 meters. As it happens, one of my projects when I lived in Delaware was a jetty pile refurbishment at the Port of Wilmington, so I’m a bit familiar with that lower-lying area, and a six foot rise in mean sea level would require some work raising the pier, but even with no work at all, it wouldn’t be overwashed; it would just sit lower than wise for safety and unloading cargo.

    A six foot rise in mean sea level would (possibly) threaten some of the nice houses along the shore, but “basically destroy Delaware’s economy?”

  48. Perry says:

    Dana wrote:

    “This discussion points out one very obvious fact: it’s not about education, but about the fact that we have transformed the public schools into social service agencies, needing to provide heat, two decent meals, and, in effect, day care services.”

    Right, the laissez faire economy which Dana touts, has over decades produced extreme inequality with the resultant burgeoning poverty class requiring schools to be social service agencies for their children, otherwise we would have students malnourished or even starving. Moreover, Dana doesn’t care, therefore offers no solutions.

    As an aside, it is noteworthy that Dana comes here to DL for conversation, which does not happen in any meaningful way on his own web cite. Since banning his only liberal (me) as demanded by his extremist clientele over there, Dana has issued an invitation for liberals to join in the debate, to no avail, as not a single liberal has come forward, ever. Thus we have Dana over here for some enlightenment.