The big news in Lincoln is Winter Storm Q*, which is expected to dump anywhere from 6 inches to 14 feet of snow over much of the Midwest. The doomsday predictions of the storm have coming all week, and are so severe that Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel is in town (as I saw on Facebook this morning, Cantore doesn’t show up to admire your sunny days).
*What is the deal with naming winter snow storms? Was some land-locked meteorologist feeling left out by the names given to hurricanes? And worse yet is the choice of “Q”. I have two issues with Q: 1) If you can’t pop for an entire name (Quincy, Quantavius, Quentin) then don’t bother with a single letter, and 2) Many Lincolnites associate the name “Q” with a downtown gay bar (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Unless the Q Bar is sponsoring the storm – and really, how far off are we from selling the naming rights to weather events? – let’s skip the names.
The snow was supposed to start falling Wednesday night, and continue all day Thursday. So it made sense that Lincoln Public Schools called off classes for Thursday, which sets off a domino effect of parochial schools, small towns, daycare centers, and businesses closing too. Heck, even the University of Nebraska called off classes, which is a rarity*.
*During my 4.5 years at UNL, classes were only called off once – for the Blizzard of 1997 – when Lincoln got 12-15 inches of heavy, wet snow that downed trees and left thousands without power for days. That, my friends, was a storm worthy of a name.
When I went to bed last night, I peeked out the window, and was somewhat surprised to see that it had not started snowing yet. No biggie – I set my alarm a little earlier, knowing that I’d be shoveling the driveway in the morning.
Morning came and….still no snow. Seriously. Not a flake. I got the kids ready for daycare and we set off on the nearly deserted streets.
As you might guess, there is a significant amount of grumbling going on about the decision to close schools before a single flake falls. Many people (myself included) remember trudging to and from school during heavy Nebraska snows, with a snow day being an unexpected treat – not a foregone conclusion. I read several of my friends griping about the decision, and what calling a snow day with no snow falling says about our culture and toughness.
But ultimately, I think they made the right decision.
Yes, the first flakes did not start falling until a little after 10 am, and as I type this (1 pm) there is maybe 2 inches of accumulation. Surely, LPS could have gotten in a partial day; monitoring the weather and dismissing classes when the snow started to pile up, right?
Setting aside the inconsistent-to-poor snow removal in Lincoln, the general inability of Lincoln drivers to deal with snowy roads, and the logistics of thousands of working parents trying to get out of work to get their kids home – and believe me, these are all incredibly valid concerns individually – there is still one key reason why LPS made the right call:
As parents, and as a community, we entrust the safety and welfare of our children to their hands. We count on our schools to keep them safe from all sorts of danger while they are there, and a winter snow storm/blizzard is definitely one of those things. Believe it or not, some kids still walk to and from school all by themselves. Do you want your kid, or your neighbor’s kid out walking around today?
I appreciate that LPS was in a true no-win situation. If they don’t cancel classes and Lincoln gets socked by a foot of snow and/or some cute little kid gets hurt walking home then they never hear the end of it for failing to plan for a storm that we’ve known about for days. If they do cancel school and the storm turns out to be a minor dusting (leaving poor Jim Cantore pouting in his parka), then they are the administration who cries “wolf!” and is failing to educate our kids.
I think Lincoln got it right. Yeah, it was a little awkward this morning when it was not snowing, but their simple act helped avoid a lot of risk and kept kids safe.
And in a post-Newtown world, that is what our schools should be doing.