On Tuesday, February 12th SD43 students were ecstatic to wake up to a white blanket of snow and the most sacred words a student can hear: "Snow Day". More than a dozen universities and schools were shut down due to the weather conditions. Students were delighted not only for sledding but mostly for the welcomed day off. You wouldn't have much luck finding a high school student who wouldn't jump at the opportunity for a day off school. But snow days aren't just rare magical occurrences. They are district (sometimes provincial) wide decisions that affect hundreds of people; though not always in positive ways. There are pros and cons to a snow day; what is a winter wonderland to all can be a nerve-wracking experience for others. So next time you pray for a snow day, think about the ripple effects that result from spontaneous school closures.
Snow days can affect entire districts, as well as partial closures which are determined independently by each school. This is specifically applicable towards districts that have a wide range of geographical features. British Columbia's mild climate doesn't lend itself to copious amounts of snow that the rest of Canada faces. But this year we saw approximately three times the typical 6 centimeters of snow, and it put tremendous pressure on infrastructure, public facilities, and schools. The dangerous conditions sidelined cars even causing some to skid or get into serious accidents. Families witnessed and experienced this firsthand as the trek up Heritage Mountain Boulevard became increasingly treacherous. Lacking proper snow tires, many families couldn't make their way up the road and ended up slipping or having to pullover on the side of the road. When the journey to school becomes a perilous journey, a snow day seems like the obvious answer. But it is far more complex than this.
Snow days aren't always easy to issue. As any resident of B.C can attest to, the weather is constantly and rapidly changing. This makes it exceedingly difficult for district officials to call a snow day by 6:30 am. The time limit can make it a tough judgment call as well as the greater effect it can have on families. Snow days are designed to keep students and families safe, but it can always put some families at risk. Snow days can present a difficult ultimatum for many parents. Emergency childcare can be difficult to find in short notice. Many parents rely on school or other childcare facilities while they are at work. Many younger students can't be left home alone, forcing their parents to miss work. This isn't a viable choice for many families who struggle financially —particularly single-parent families who may only have one source of income. It is understandable that school officials wouldn't want to put parents in this difficult spot.
Despite the excitement of Snow Days, they're uncommon for a reason. It is important to ensure families safety when coming to school. Therefore on days with dangerous weather conditions, families are given the choice of keeping their children home. But those privileged enough to experience school closure days without any increased financial stress or lack of child care must also acknowledge the stress unexpected school closure days put on parents. Snow Days are amazing and magical experiences when we are young. Every child should get to feel the wind whipping through their hair as they sled down a snow padded hill on a Tuesday morning.