Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Day Announcements

Suppose you were running a school, and you needed a way to inform parents if the school was closed or delayed on account of snow.  How would you do it?

Method 1.)  You could set up a program of telephone robo-calls, guaranteed to wake the entire household at an ungodly hour of the morning, with the message that everybody could have slept in, because school has been delayed for 2 hours or canceled entirely!

Method 2.)  You could use the web, sort of.  On your school's home page, you provide a link to the "school closing information" web page of the local TV station, which lists schools, not by their name, but by a 3-digit "school closing number".  The school administration spends a considerable amount of time and effort reminding parents what the school closing number is, because, strangely, parents tend to forget random 3-digit numbers that they only use a few times per year.

Method 3.)  You could post the information on your school's home page, as soon as the decision has been made, which is often the night before the snow day.  This way, parents have a chance to find the information for themselves when they need it.

My older daughter's private school uses Method 3, which is my preferred method.  My younger daughter's private school started the year with Method 1, until I asked them to take my name off the phone list.  Then they proposed Method 2.  I believe I have now talked them into Method 3.  Time will tell ...


  1. Suburban Chicken FarmerJanuary 20, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    method one works well for me, although we never have snow days. I get calls, robo and personnel from school, and if I can't get to the phone they leave a clear message on voicemail. I'm not so great at checking e mail.

  2. SCF, do you get robo-calls that wake you up 2 or 3 hours before your usual time?

    It occurs to me that this business of snow day announcements is a great example of how parents are treated as the school's employees, and low-ranking employees at that. Parents are never consulted about how they would prefer to be informed of a snow day. Your name goes on a list, and you get an obnoxious robo-call.

  3. Suburban Chicken FarmerJanuary 20, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    No. I think I may have got one as late as 9 or ten from my boys' previous school- which to me is too late, but at least didn't send me into a panic. If I got a call before seven am, it would not just wake me but frighten me too... I'd immediately think family emergency. I get it. Schools should strive to not disrupt their students' and parents' homes. I imagine it's not so hard to accommodate everyone most of the time.

  4. I'm assuming you've already heard about this, which may have prompted this post in the first place. If not, you'll get a kick out of it.

  5. Chris, thanks for the link. Great story. I had heard a rumor about it, but actually hadn't read the article.

    I wasn't thinking of that story -- just about my family's experiences.

  6. I'll give credit to my school system: they post the status to their website and send emails or texts to anyone who signs up. Very effective method and not intrusive (Method 1 seems like the worst possible solution).

    On the other hand, they can't seem to make the call to delay or cancel school quickly enough. It is often after the high school students have already gotten up. If they could just decide 10 or 15 minutes earlier...

  7. PsychMom contributes...
    We must be really behind the times here because we listen to the radio to hear about school closings. I wake up to my bedside radio and on storm days the station I'm tuned to does little else but report the cancellations and school closings. I think our school has an automated system for messages (which I don't use). But the school will also put it on their outgoing message so a parent just has to call the school to find out. Rarely would the decision be made the night before, unless it was a really bad storm that was predicted.

    I object to school closings except in extremely bad (everyone should stay home) weather. If all the rest of the work force is expected to be at work, why are teachers exempt? I'm fine with taking school buses off the road, but schools should be open.

  8. "I'm fine with taking school buses off the road, but schools should be open."

    What's the point of having school open if the kids can't get there?

  9. PsychMom:

    The kids that can walk safely, can walk, and I drive my kid to school everyday, as do most parents at our school. Why should that change if I still have to go to work?

  10. Apparently we're also behind the times here in Toronto. Parents are just expected to listen to local TV and radio stations to find out about school closings. That said, our board prides itself on (almost) never declaring snow days, which is kind of odd since we do get our fair share of snow. In the six years that my daughters have been attending the local public school, they have had exactly one half of a snow day. They think it's extremely unfair! But I think the board's reluctance to close schools stems from the kind of objections PsychMom expresses above. Plus, a lot of kids walk to school (or they could do so) in our neighbourhood, so kids can get to school even when there's a lot of snow.

    That said, I think the odd snow day makes for a nice break for kids—time to actually play in the snow, for instance!

  11. PsychMom adds:

    I agree with NorthTOMom...a day here and there in a winter is OK. I lived in Ontario for most of my life and snow days were occasional.

    But out here, we had a year recently where the kids lost 14 days to weather related closures, nearly 3 weeks of school. One day, freezing rain was only predicted for the next day and school was cancelled the night before. It only rained.....parents were upset. In sharp contrast, daycares (or at least the one my child attended) NEVER how does a school closure make sense?
    Don't get me wrong...I think it makes sense to stay off the road when there is bad weather (it's snowing as i write this I write this- damn)but employers don't tend to pay you when you don't show up.

  12. Last winter I invested in 2 very high-quality sleds. I'm happy to see the kids using them.