I’m glad that the decisions we have to make as school leaders regarding a ‘snow day’ are few and far between. Seriously, it is a mine field.
If you close you are typical ‘work-shy’ school leader not content enough with your 100 weeks a year holiday, closing the school before the first flake hits the ground and turns to dirty mush. If you stay open, you are a heartless curmudgeon content with imprisoning children whilst they stare out of their classrooms dreaming of all the fun they could have. Watching other children from that ‘school up the road’ speed down hills and roll around in the light dusting having the time of their lives.
I have had to make the decision a handful of times in my 16 years as a head. It’s not like I am a brain surgeon about to make life saving surgery, a Sergeant taking their troops into a danger zone or a fire chief entering a burning building… but in ‘teaching terms’ this one is an 8 on the stress scale (Slightly above postponing sports day due to rain). This is because I feel that keeping the school open has NEVER been more important. I know that my community offer services in care, nursing and emergency response. The working parents and careers in school communities have never needed a school as much as they do now. For many, extended family just does not exist in the ways it used to – in fact, most of them are also needing to work. I get the feeling that there is very little slack given by employers to people with child care issues… so when the school closes – the domino effect is massive. It is a decision I take very seriously.
I can’t differentiate ‘importance’ on a snow day and say – we are open to Emergency service children – because where do you draw the line? Doctors? Nurses? Carers? Plummer? Local shop owners? Therefore, we have three options – open, part open or closed.
This is the easiest decision in some ways. When working in a city all I had to do was check to see if public transport was running (Especially London). Once closed the decision is made and you just have to hope it really does snow enough to make people think… ‘Ok, good decision’. In my experience its very rare someone says this- for some there is never enough snow. These are usually people who don’t have to worry about pregnant staff travelling across treacherous roads. So, you just need to be clear and have a thick skin.
Nightmare! Based on who can get in to work, this is the one you have to hold your nerve on. Your community want a quick and decisive answer… part open does not do that. This is more complex now I work in the country because teachers come from many miles and many different areas. The roads are less major and some routes will not be covered. Also, part open means staff have to make reasonable efforts to come in or don’t get paid. The risks some might go to in situations like this can keep you awake at night. On your concience be it.
Currently there are about four different weather zones happening around Somerset. You also have to think through the whole journey – there and back. You don’t want to send people home in to a snow blitz or on to frozen roads. Therefore, you need some forward thinking. Basically you begin to think you are Michael Fish or Penny Tranter and try to predict the future weather. You quickly realise you are fighting a losing battle.
This is hard and a few issues arise. Other schools deciding to close being a big one. In this era of school fragmentation, you usually find out they have closed via Facebook or other parents. In the days of a strong LA it was joined up and to a degree you felt there was a decision making machine behind the scenes. That has gone. Also, you open and you can gaurentee that a good percentage will decide not to come in (or can’t due to distances) and therefore – Your attendance will be smashed.
Anyway. Staring out of my window this morning as the high winds whip up drifts and not a car can be seen on the road… I know I made the right decision. I am now hoping for rain. Well, after I’ve replied to these emails, finished two bids and up dated the School Development Plan – where did I put that sledge?