by Dick Hall-Sizemore

What is it with school divisions?  I am not talking about masks or anything about COVID, but about their panic at the mere mention of snow.  This has been a longtime complaint of mine.

The Wednesday afternoon weather forecast for the Richmond area on Thursday called for temperatures in the high 30s to the low 40s, with rain in the morning gradually turning into snow in the afternoon with an accumulation of perhaps an inch.


Gotta close the schools!

Here is the school schedule for Thursday:

  • Closing two hours early–Chesterfield, Hanover, Dinwiddie, Henrico, and Richmond
  • Closing three hours early–Hopewell
  • Closing at 12:10–Caroline
  • Staggered closing–New Kent, 10:55 for secondary; 12:10 for elementary (10:55? Why go to school at all?)
  • Closed–Louisa
  • Closed, but remote learning (spoilsports)–Goochland and Spotsylvania

Closing early means that the day counts and the system does not have to make it up.  No matter that it creates many problems for parents and some for teachers.  I can understand closing early if it starts snowing or sleeting after school starts and it is obvious that roads will be dangerous by the end of the normal school day.   But planning ahead to close early when the snow is not forecast to start falling until the afternoon and the temperatures are above freezing?

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33 responses to “SNOW DAY!”

  1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    When I attended college in Virginia, we shut down one day in 4 years for snow (it was indeed a big one – and a very fun day as I recall). I noted that they announced closure this past event for literally like 3 inches of snow… I was like “What?!”

    I guess times have changed…

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Dorms? Or, commuter? At a resident school, only the faculty is at risk. At a commuter school, the income is at risk.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        Mostly dorms with some commuters but that has shifted much more to (nearby) off-campus housing (with bussing) in the intervening years. A likely culprit for the snow policy changes.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Yeah, I can remember trudging to class in snow and ice. Probably the difference between now and then in this respect is that more students live off campus. When I was at W&M, the only students that lived off campus were those who had been admitted as non-residential students and commuted from their parents’ homes nearby and those few students who were married.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        I believe that my school followed the same pattern and you are likely correct in your assessment (although given that parking on or near campus was even then a perennial problem, I am not sure to what degree). But why spoil my old man rant with such a legitimate explanation…?!

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        1978/79 at W&M, huge snowstorm and a class full of Taiwanese exchange students. 30 faces pressed against the glass. We few American students introduced them to a real traditional snowball fight.

  2. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    I occasionally agree with DHS and this is the least substantive yet.
    I hate to be an old fart, but this is ridiculous!
    I walked five miles to school…uphill…both ways!
    But seriously, we didn’t just cancel schools and the only time we were really snowed out for days was for 27 inches of snow (1967?).
    My favorite was about 10 years ago when I had just started working for a company headquartered in Florida. We had the usual panic predictions of a new Ice Age with the schools in Henrico and all over pre announced closed, and the course shifted North and a little West and we woke up to green lawns and above freezing temperatures. I took a picture and sent it to my co-workers in Florida as Snow Day in Virginia.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Will the Promise of Global Warming never arrive? I was seeing another “end of snow” story out of some moron university study the other day. They just lie!

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    A spousal unit friend from a deep freeze state, e.g., Wisconsin, follwing the I-95 debacle explained her emergency road kit.
    1) ball peen hammer,
    2) old rubber doormat,
    3) two blankets,
    4) 4 bottles of water,
    5) 4 peanut bars,
    6) 2 Yankee candles of the size to fit a cup holder, and matches.

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      Remember chains…??

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Not in Va.

        1. A number of years ago, during one of those rare periods in Virginia when it stayed cold after a large snowstorm and the snow stayed around for a week or so (I think it was 1996) I mounted studded snow tires to an old Saab Model 99 I owned and then took it out on the back roads around Culpeper. For the two or three days that snowpack stayed on the roads it was some of the most entertaining times I have ever had behind the wheel of a car.

          The studs provided crazy grip on the frozen road, but still allowed for controlled slides when I wanted them. For a while I felt like I could give Erik Carlsson a run for his money. I couldn’t, of course, not even on my best day and his worst, but it was loads of fun.

          It was the one and only time in my life that I thought it might be a good idea to move to Minnesota.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            I thought about moving to Minnesota. It was in June when I was up there in 1978. I noticed all the cars had big whip antennas on them and when I asked about “all the CB radios” was informed, “Oh no, they put red flags on those so you car see cars coming over the snow drifts.”
            Thoughts of Minnesota were gone.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            dune buggies Minnesnowda style

          3. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Growing up we had two sets of wheels in the garage. The summer set and the winter set with studded tires (mind you this was NWPA).

  4. tmtfairfax Avatar

    Big geographic areas are challenging for moving students via bus and other means of transportation. And I remember a slippery winter day a number of years ago when FCPS did not cancel classes. What a mess.

    On the other hand, I only remember two or three days of school snow closings in both grade and high school in St. Paul, MN. And, of course, my dad told stories of going to school in two feet of snow and minus 50.

  5. killerhertz Avatar

    NOVA at least is full of so many coddled, comfortable minds that nobody knows how to prepare their cars for an emergency when bad weather is predicted. I lived in Central/Western NY for a time and you were suicidal if you didn’t keep a blanket/sleeping bag, shovel, kitty litter, etc. in your car.

    And yes large school districts with monolithic school closure policies are a problem.

  6. killerhertz Avatar

    NOVA at least is full of so many coddled, comfortable minds that nobody knows how to prepare their cars for an emergency when bad weather is predicted. I lived in Central/Western NY for a time and you were suicidal if you didn’t keep a blanket/sleeping bag, shovel, kitty litter, etc. in your car.

    And yes large school districts with monolithic school closure policies are a problem.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    Given the idiocy we see on the roads these days when it snows, I would suspect the schools are in a lose-lose situation. One kid killed on a bus in the snow, and you can bet all hell with break loose.

  8. VaPragamtist Avatar

    Just my own observations of the trends over the years, but I predict the data would back me up:

    I think the willingness to close school at any sign of inclement weather has as much to do with the former “King’s Dominion Law” as it does with safety.

    Prior to recent legislative changes, school divisions had to get a waiver to open schools before Labor Day. That waiver was based on school closures for inclement weather, etc. (I believe it was an average over the previous 5-year period).

    As we saw more schools wanting to start the academic year earlier/end earlier, we also saw a willingness to close for less severe reasons (high wind; too much rain; the snow’s gone, but let’s just be safe about potential for a spot of black ice on the back road). While legislative changes have made it easier to open before Labor Day, the new behavior of school divisions regarding closure has been institutionalized.

    If some social scientist wanted to test this theory, they would only need to look at the waivers over time, closures, and weather for the same time period (say, 1996 – present), for correlation.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I had not thought of that. It is an interesting theory.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Add in something else and that is the increase in people willing to pass a school bus that is stopped with the lights flashing.

      More and more, the public engages in unsafe behavior under normal conditions , add it some weather, and it seems to draw out more idiots.

      Overall, schools have become much more sensitive to claims that they did not use “reasonable” care in their decisions that then lead to lawsuits and often, settlements.

      I would submit that it’s the liability exposure and costs to defend and settle that have made them more and more careful about inclement weather closures.

      We could test that theory also but the numbers of incidents and lawsuits over time.

      1. VaPragamtist Avatar

        There may be some truth to that. It may also be the public reasoning given by school divisions for otherwise gaming the waiver system.

        To determine whether an increase in litigiousness is to blame, expand the timeframe by another couple of decades for lawsuits and incidences. Also add in any increases in insurance costs over the same time.

        I would suspect (without looking at any of the data), that litigiousness has seen a steadier increase over a longer period of time, whereas closure increases are more sudden, beginning rapidly mid-2000’s/early 2010’s or so.

        It’s easy to blame decisions on litigiousness, but I think the more sudden increases will show there’s probably more to the story.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I won’t argue the point but I think the public is much more apt to jump on the schools for perceived “wrong” decisions these days. The schools walk a tightrope on a bunch of issues to include when to not roll the buses.

          Locally, on social media, on days that are “close calls”, you don’t have to wait long for the critics… either side.

  9. My high school, a prep school in Washington, D.C., never had a snow day. Not one ever. Everyone was expected to find a way to get to school. I will say this: If someone couldn’t make it to school, their absence was not held against them. But the rest of us took a perverse pride in our doggedness and determination.

  10. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Looks to me like the kids will be leaving the building and boarding the buses just as the snow peaks. Of course. It is the whiny parents. If the school divisions try to stay open, the screaming and yelling must be awful. One bus wreck and the roof falls in. So the easy path is to just give ’em what they want, even as they then realize maybe they didn’t want it.

    Was speaking to our son last night and a similar, even less dire forecast has sparked announcements the San Antonio schools would close. Just a dusting drives them over the edge.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Parents running the schools… oh well.

      1. Well played, sir.

  11. how_it_works Avatar

    The fact is..snow is to Southerners as kryptonite is to superman.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      I thought Virginians were bad until I lived in Texas. At one intersection, I watched a cop, lights flashin’ and siren blarin’, pull a perfect in-lane 720. Bob Bondurant would have been proud.

  12. LesGabriel Avatar

    For some reason I thought there was a requirement for a minimum number of contact-hours in a school year, not contact days. Try to recall some of the discussions regarding school opening and closing times. Does anyone know what the minimum number of contact days and what constitutes a contact day?

  13. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    My grandmother Whitehead always made a big deal about her Hanover County horse drawn school bus from the early 1920s. Never missed a day of school. The children were expected to help push the bus wagon out of the mud on McClellan Road near Old Church.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Seatbelts unnecessary. Those Morgans are far more massive than a carriage horse.

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