Friday, March 02, 2012

Snow days are different

As I write this, my school-aged kids are home instead of having knowledge crammed into their brains. Why? It’s a snow day. Well, not exactly snow, but you know what I mean. School was closed and the juvenile world celebrated. Oh, so did the teachers and school staff and bus drivers and others. And why shouldn’t they? It’s a surprise vacation! But the whole routine just seems so different than when I was the school boy wondering if it would snow enough for the powers-that-were to call off school.

First of all, back in my day (just picture me leaning back in my chair, putting my thumbs in my suspenders and gripping an old pipe in my teeth for this part), we didn’t get days off school unless the weather was really bad. These days, with everyone threatening to sue a school district for any little things, superintendents have to be far more conservative about sending buses and student drivers and parents out on the roads. When I was a kid, the administrators relied more on experience -- meaning if they could drive to school without experiencing a ditch or pole firsthand, school was on!

A friend of mine whose wife is a teacher wrote me today that since school had been cancelled, he was taking his beautiful wife out to breakfast. I responded with something about it being too awful outside for school, but apparently not for breakfast! He responded that he had to run to town anyway, so he might as well bring some unexpected company!

Of course in my boyhood, if school was called off, it was because no one without a military tank or a snowmobile could get to the building! The rest of us old folks all remember the Blizzard of ‘78, the Winter of ‘79, and countless other seasons that didn’t rate special commemorative names. Most of those times, the question was not if school would be cancelled, but how many days in a row would it be cancelled.

Also, the way we learned about snow days is so much different now than back then. This morning I got three separate text messages informing me that my kids were delayed, further delayed, and finally cancelled. The most work I put into finding out was to reach for my cell phone on the nightstand.

Back in the day, we used to crowd around the radio as the announcer on WOWO or some other station would read the list of schools where kids could play all day. The list would be long, especially on WOWO since there were maybe 100 school districts reporting there. We waiting anxiously, hoping against hope that this time they weren’t reading them alphabetically when they forgot to read off my district.

There are so many ways to find out about cancellations today. Sure there is radio, but there is also the crawl at the bottom of the television channels, school websites, radio and TV station websites, signs in front of the schools, texting, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. The kids today don’t get to experience near as much anxiety in the wait.

When I worked in radio, we took the calls from the school big-wigs who got to call off school. Calls from people asking about school delays and such came in on the same line. And yes, there were the occasional kids who tried to cancel their own school day. Do-it-yourself snow day! The problem was, the school administrators were all given a code that had to be repeated when calling in a school announcement. So when the kid would call, trying desperately to sound like an adult (and fooling no one), and tell me that the city school system was closed for the day, I would just have to ask, “What is the code?” After a few seconds of stammering, the line would go dead. So much for the do-it-yourself snow day.

I saw plenty of kids out and about during the Thursday snow day in the county. They weren’t snowed in. They weren’t trying to dig their way out of the house to make a snowman. They went out for breakfast and lunch, and went shopping. On a snow day! It’s just not like it used to be.

No comments: