In a big district like Wake County – with more than 153,000 students in 170 schools scattered across 857 square miles – there is probably only one job worse than being the person in charge of student assignment:
Being the person in charge of cancelling school due to inclement weather.
Last night, as our local meteorologists sent everyone racing to the store for bread, milk, eggs and wine (the essentials, assuming you already have a stockpile of chocolate), the Wake County Public School System went ahead and canceled school for today.
As of 4 p.m., when the school day would have been over across the entire county, we still hadn’t seen the first snowflake. We finally saw a few flurries just after 5:00.
For parents whose days were turned topsy-turvy (or worse) with kids at home, it was frustrating knowing we could have had a completely normal (albeit very cold) day. Instead, we have a snow make-up day for a day that didn’t include snow.
So here’s what makes that job – the one that has to make the call about if and when to cancel school – so terrible. If they hadn’t cancelled school and the snow started at noon (as was possible, according to the weather maps), parents would have been furious that kids were put on buses after the weather started to turn instead of before. You can’t win for losing.
As much as I wish we’d had school today so that I could have had a normal day at work, I don’t blame WCPSS at all for the decision they made. Here’s why:
- Wake County runs a multi-tier bus system – that means that one set of buses picks up a round of kids and takes them to school, then picks up another round of kids and takes them to school. Then they refuel and do the whole thing in reverse. On early release days, our school starts at 8:30 and gets out at 12:30 – I think that’s about as tight a turn-around as the buses can manage, meaning the last schools are released at 1:15. If the snow had started at noon as predicted, that would have been too late.
- I’m still scarred from January 2005 when a fraction of an inch of snow fell in the early afternoon, immediately turned to ice, and caused total gridlock across the county. My usual 15-minute drive home from work took three hours – and I had to walk the last few blocks, pregnant and frozen, because I couldn’t get my car up the icy hill around the corner from my house. As it turned out, three hours was a blessing – many people spent upwards of eight hours stuck in their cars while some children (and their teachers or administrators) spent the night at school when their parents weren’t able to get there to pick them up. Ask the people in Atlanta today if they know what I’m talking about.
Now at 9 p.m., it’s still snowing – although it’s a wimpy sort of snow so far. With any luck, there will be enough to justify suiting up to go out and play tomorrow (obviously school is cancelled again) – but not so much to cause that poor person to have to cancel school again on Thursday.
PS: If you’re not following @wcpss on Twitter yet, you might be the only one. Go follow them now.
PSS: That's Junius earlier today (in the photo), wearing his snow pants over his pajama pants, coat at the ready. You know, just in case.