I’ve noted before on this blog that I’m not a big fan of second-guessing weather related school closure decisions for snow. The marginal calls are always no-wins for superintendents who are acting on imperfect information, on a tight timetable, and with the knowledge that you can always make a day up later but you can’t undo an accident.
But today’s cold-related school closures in the DC-area seem different. Many school systems closed up for the day in advance of the “polar vortex.” It was certainly cold (2 degrees F where I was at 6am) but there seemed to be little logic to the closure decisions. For starters the day ended up in the low 20s, not balmy but hardly unprecedented. And tomorrow is only supposed to be a few degrees warmer (albeit with less wind although buses are not susceptible to wind chill) yet schools will be open. Some schools opened 2 hours late instead of closing even though the temperature midmorning was just a few degrees higher than at the normal opening time – not a difference that really matters to health of people or machines. As opposed to snow or ice, which can vary from place to place the weather around the region was pretty consistent, just cold, but the decisions were inconsistent. From the cheap seats it all made little sense.
Low-income students, meanwhile, missed a chance for a hot breakfast and/or lunch, and for some the most nutritious meals they get all day – on the coldest day of year so far. That alone seems like a good reason to err on the side of keeping schools open when it’s just cold, as opposed to icy or snowing.