I’m in Atlanta right now, where schools are taking every precaution to avoid a repeat of the logistical nightmare that unfolded two weeks ago when two inches of snow paralyzed the city.
Preparations for the latest storm—which local meteorologists say could reach “historical proportions”–included making the decision well in advance to cancel school today, when the worst of the weather is expected to move through the region. (Panic levels high at the local stores, as people stocked up on the necessities and the not-so-necessary. Overheard at my corner market earlier this week: “Get the Greek yogurt!” “How much?” “All of it!”)
There’s a popular map that shows how much snow it takes to cancel classes in different parts of the country. While that makes for fun reading, the northern comedians (well played, Saturday Night Live) and Twitter commenters deriding southern cities as somehow wimpy when it comes to snow are missing the point. In many cases these are municipalities that simply aren’t equipped to de-ice roads or plow streets on a major scale. And without those services, which are commonplace in regions where snow is plentiful, getting to school can become a real risk.
This winter has been particularly brutal for academic calendars across the country. In Minnesota last month, the governor canceled classes for all public schools, the first time that’s happened since the 1996-97 academic year. In Michigan, where rough winters are commonplace, many districts have already exhausted their allotment of six snow days, and lawmakers are considering giving schools more flexibility to add on instructional minutes. Additional cancelations will require extending the school day or year to make up the time. In Louisiana, districts plan to squeeze in the makeup days ahead of the statewide assessments in mid-March, so that students have as many days of instruction as possible before their proficiency is measured.