It is 5:04 am and I am sitting to write this in my bathrobe with a fresh cup of coffee at hand and the wind howling outside.  I have been up now for almost an hour, watching news, weather updates and checking the web sites of the weather service, city office of emergency management, public schools and several other independent schools. Though the coffee and quiet house are idyllic, I still feel frustrated for no one knows what impact the storm has had on our families, on our commutes to school, whether or not we still have (and will continue to have) power to the school building itself. These are the factors on which I would like to base the decision to cancel school.

  • Are the children and parents going to be safe traveling back and forth?
  • Can we give the children a warm, well-lit and protected environment to learn in once they arrive at school?
  • Is it safe for the children to use the playgrounds and fields and travel back and forth to the dance studio for games and eurythmy classes?
  • Will the teachers and staff get to and from work safely?

It is very hard to discern these answers from a weather report or web update- that is why calling a snow day is both an art and a science. Because one has to choose a point in time and answer as many of those questions as possible based on the information at hand – hoping that the predictions hold good and we don’t all sit home wondering why our children are running around the house, again, when they could be at school!

It is the policy at our school that the Leadership Team makes decisions about school cancellations related to weather and other factors. It has also been our policy to follow the lead of the Philadelphia school district.  This policy is based on the knowledge that they have a wider view of conditions across the city-traffic, public safety and infrastructure.  If they deem it unwise to have buses and private citizens hit the streets to get to school then we have always followed suit.

One would think then that the decision to call a snow day is easy. This is not the case.  I am well aware of the joy of the children when they hear those magical words- “SNOW DAY.”  I am also aware of what this can mean for parents; missed work, missed income, tasks and errands postponed or interrupted, bored or impatient children needing more input than usual.  From the teacher’s perspective lessons (often planned months in advance) need to be postponed, condensed or even missed out on because the schedule is simply too tight to cram everything into the time there is left.  We are a school where most learning relies on experience: hearing a story, drawing the geometric forms, sculpting, moving, painting, and writing.  These experiences underlie the work in the lesson books and if we are not together to have them, it cannot simply be relegated to homework or make-up work.  It is not at all a joyful thing for us to say “We will give up that time with the children.”

So far it has been a wacky winter! I am grateful for the patience and goodwill of all of our families as we embark on yet another snow day.  I hope that all will be safe and sound and that soon we can commence our normal schedules again with no further interruptions from Mother Nature.

written by Erin Şemin, WSP Faculty Chair

This blog post was first published in February 2010 and has been slightly amended to reflect the new governance model of the Leadership Team.