That has been apparent this month as school districts from Arlington and Alexandria to Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties have wrestled with whether to close or delay school — sometimes based on potentially bad weather and sometimes based on dangerously low temperatures.
To borrow another old adage, they're damned if they do and damned if they don't — a point colorfully illustrated by Patch readers who've vociferously shared their opinions supporting and opposing the decisions school districts have made.
On closing for extreme temperatures, one Patch reader commented that it's "embarrassing. raising a generation of wimpy kids." But another took the position that "safety comes before school" when the weather is bad.
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There was support for closing schools when the snow was forecast to hit during the school day: "Storm is coming in the morning, students will have to leave school. The districit will save money on busing, meals, elec, heating by closing. The most important part is the student safety."
But as the days off began to pile up, readers questioned the decisions to keep schools closed: "Why don't we just close them until April, when all chance of frost is clear? Show our kids that Americans don't need to deal with adversity; don't need to work through adversity; and can't meet challenges successfully."
Which prompted this reply: If everyone wasn't ready to sue the schools would stay open ... Do you want your 5 yr old on a stuck bus? Or worse. Hit by some idiot in a hurry to go buy toilet paper ? Get a life!"
But when the decisions are based on cold temperatures, the comments really got hot: "Unless there's no heat at the school or a broken water pipe, there's no reason to cancel school. Snow or freezing rain? Sure, of course, but colder temps? Put some extra layers on."
Another reader commented: This can go on and on until we have to go to school in late June or early July when you will tell us it is too hot ."
But others disagreed: "It's purely a safety issue. All the need to have is one bus accident and everyone would be all over them about rushing to get back before the streets were cleared off."
There were also comments about how this weather would not affect school children in other regions of the country, such as this one from a former Vermont resident: "Mornings in January were often -20 degrees F, and yet the girls trudged out to the (unheated) barn to feed and water the horses and muck the stalls if it wasn't too frozen. Then they came back in, bathed, and got ready for school. It's a matter of what you're used to. We can endure a day or two. Wear layers."
But another relocated Northerner had a different take: "I grew up in Upstate NY and this was run-of-the-mill stuff. However we had ample equipment, road-shoulders wide enough for plowing, and a reasonable expectation of clear sidewalks and paths. Every student, no matter how poor, had the right gear, because you would need it for at least 40-50 days per year. It's simply not reasonable to push that expectation this far south, unless you're willing to pay for road-shoulders, snow plows, and path-clearers. Tax hike, anyone?"
But, as one reader noted, "the kids are going to get 180 days no matter what. So, instead of scrambling to find care during the Spring break, you scramble to find care now. It's all the same to me. ----- Frankly, instead of fretting over the time that I'm not at work, I'm enjoying spending some mid-week time with the Delinquents."
Post your thoughts about the school closing decisions in the comments section below.