Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day for NYC Public Schools

For those of you who have nothing to do with the NYC public school system, the title for this blog may be engendering the following response...huh? So what? Well, the last time the NYC public schools had a snow day was in 2004 and there was such a backlash to that decsion, you would have thought a fan favorite had been voted off American Idol!

People who work for the NYC public schools or who have children in them are used to watching the names of neighboring districts and private and parochial schools in the five boros, scroll continuously at the bottom of the TV screen on news stations on snowy days. We tell our children, "Don't bother to look, your school is open!" We tell them, "Make your own breakfast. I have to leave early to get to work on time."

There is something "honorable" about the schools in NYC rarely closing due to weather. It means New Yorkers are tough...we are prepared...we are teaching our children that school is important and that attending is worth the effort even if it is more difficult than usual! Even President Obama joked that he would have to teach the DC school his daughters attend a thing or two about Chicago toughness when the school closed due to a small amount of snow last month. It is closed again today.

Closing the public schools presents a real hardship for working families, especially in single parent homes. Junior and senior high school students can stay home by themselves but the anxiety that creates for their parent(s) means, that as an employee, he or she is functioning at less than optimum level. For elementary school children, someone has to take a sick day or use a vacation day, hire (at short notice) an expensive baby sitter or impose on family or friends.

Whether it was really necessary to close the schools today remains to be seen. It is still snowing and there is not much street traffic even in Manhattan. Many children travel to school on buses, so of course, it is their safety that must be the primary decision-making criterion. I'll withhold my judgement for the time being.

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