The superstitions for conjuring the snow-day cosmos on a blustery winter day are not to be taken lightly. Wearing your pajamas inside out is mandatory. Sleeping with a spoon under your pillow is non-negotiable. And flushing ice cubes down the toilet is absolutely required. On the meteorologic battlefield, no flake—or flannel onesie—can be left unturned.
Weather-related school closures are common across the country’s largest public districts, though some have canceled class vastly more often than others in the past decade. Where I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, teeth-chattering temperatures and back-breaking amounts of snow are practically inevitable, and the salt stains on my boots are proof enough that my hometown’s snow-related infrastructure is nothing if not thorough. Despite winter’s wrath, my high school has closed only a dozen or so times in the last 10 school years because of snow—a far cry from the 50 weather-related closures Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, had during the same timeframe. At an average of five weather-related closures each year, students in Louisville are typically left with a week of canceled courses annually.
Surely the regularity of its difficult weather poises the Chicagoland area to be more prepared for snow and ice than a place like Kentucky: Whereas the average winter temperature in Louisville is 37.2 degrees, it’s 26.4 degrees in Chicago, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Still, with its 50 closures, Louisville (which, granted, gets hit with quite a lot of rain and other Mother Nature-related disturbances) is the most-often-closed district that reported data to The Atlantic. And Jefferson County schools are far from residing in a league of their own: The public-school districts in Columbus, Ohio, and Oklahoma City closed for 42 and 43 days, respectively, over the last decade. Meanwhile, multiple large districts—from Billings Public Schools in Montana to the Los Angeles Unified School District—have closed either once or not at all in the same timeframe.