Don’t wait for the schools to close — Make your own safety decisions

Posted in 21st century parent, safety
by Jennifer

Are you prepared to be your own school superintendent?

This is not relevant for my homeschooling friends; they already have answered that question affirmatively.

While they stay warm inside and happily on schedule this winter, the rest of us who send our children to school sit and wait, anxiously checking websites and phone messages for any indication of whether the kids will have a snow day.

In other words, we are waiting for someone else to decide whether it is safe for our children to walk or drive or be driven to school.

After more than 13 years of entrusting our children to someone else’s care, we have come to the conclusion — finally! — that we alone are in the best position to know whether they can be safe traveling to their destination.

Not the superintendent, and certainly not the coach.

On Sunday night, Medina City Schools was among the later districts to announce it would be closed the next day. Meanwhile, Akron Public Schools and many others had already announced they would be closed for two days. Our girls’ high school, Our Lady of the Elms in west Akron, was the last Catholic high school to close that night, but at least the announcement covered two days. It wasn’t until mid-day Monday that Medina announced it would be closed today. I applaud the early decisions: Making such announcements well in advance was smart and courteous to parents who must make arrangements for their children — a much easier task than at 6 a.m. on a snow day.

As curious as we were about the announcements, we already had decided it was not safe for our girls — who drive themselves and two friends 30 minutes to school most days — to be on the roads in such cold and unforgiving weather. The next question would be whether one of us adults would drive them, or if we would keep them home.

It isn’t in our nature to be so independent. We’ve always gone by the official school closings, and unless the coach canceled practice we did our very best to be there.

However, that attitude started to change a few years ago when our oldest was about 10 or 11 and she was playing Medina rec softball. It was the middle of the summer, and a thunderstorm was approaching from the west. We could see lightning in the sky, but the league had invested that year in some kind of weather alert system that supposedly would trigger if a game should be postponed or canceled. So, even though we could see the dark clouds moving our way, could hear thunder and even saw a couple of flashes in the sky, we sat there like frightened sheep on the sidelines.

We grumbled to each other, questioned the coach and gathered our things, but we all let our daughters remain on the field because we were too afraid to challenge authority and didn’t want to be seen as those parents.

Finally, when the storm was upon us, they called the game and we made a mad dash across the field and Ella Canavan School parking lot to our minivan. I hurried to get my little ones into the vehicle while I frantically tried to put equipment and chairs into the back.

That’s when a bolt of lightning hit somewhere close. The hair on my arms stood on end; it felt like the lightning was 10 feet behind me. I remember SCREAMING to my children to get in and close the doors.

I never was so afraid of a storm in my life. And I vowed that I would NEVER let someone else decide whether it was safe for my child to follow their expectations. It was my job, and abdicating that responsibility to a coach and league nearly had quite serious consequences for my kids.

I know that coaches and superintendents do care about children. But they can’t possibly care to the same degree as the parents. And frankly, they have many other considerations and priorities. If we feel it is not safe for our children to be out, then we parents need to be the ones who say no. No, they won’t be at practice. No, they must leave the game. No, they won’t be at school.

I heard yesterday that one area Catholic high school I won’t name, which had canceled classes for two days, still had required basketball and swimming practices. Honestly? How is that possibly right?

I think it is a good policy that coaches cancel when school is out. Period. That’s the approach taken by the St. Francis Xavier Parish CYO sports program and countless others, I’m sure.

Tomorrow we will have another opportunity to decide whether it is safe for our children to go to school. The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning that doesn’t expire until 9 a.m. tomorrow, two hours after our children will be on their way to school. Is it safe for them to stand at the bus stop, walk or drive to school?

I think the schools should implement the two-hour delayed start tomorrow and let the warning expire before they expect kids to be heading to school. It’s never been used in Medina, to my knowledge, in the 13 years we’ve lived here. However, I think that is the only responsible approach tomorrow.

Yes, they all need to go back to school. It’s time. As much as I have hated to see the holiday bubble burst, we’re all ready to get back into the routine.

I’m not sure they need one more whole day off, if the weather will warm somewhat throughout the day, but delaying the start time would mean they could travel to school in relative safety.

School is important, and, to a much lesser degree, so are sports. None of us want our children to miss out because they weren’t there, whether it is a school lesson or playing time, or be seen as pansies who couldn’t handle a challenge. However, there is no better time to help our children understand the big picture — that their safety is paramount.

That’s a lesson only we parents can teach.

  • Erin Johnson

    You are one pathetic person. Most of us don’t sit and wait, we go off to work during the day, if you don’t have a job maybe try one. The crappy weather comes with choosing to live in this part of the country. Life does not grind to halt. As you are a fully functioning adult, you are more than capable of deciding whether or not to send your kids to school, or if the weather conditions are safe to play ball in. The best lesson you can teach your kids is that families should rely on themselves to make decisions and not government or school officials, or others. That might be to difficult to do for someone of your intellect.

  • Jennifer

    Hello Erin, Thanks for your reply. I’ve been thinking about your response and the best I can do is agree with you – we all need to make decisions for ourselves, and not wait for government or school officials or others. I think that was the point of my blog. Perhaps I’m not as independently minded as you, and it took me awhile to reach the point in my life that I was willing to challenge their authority. I wish you all the best.