Dealing with snow and the inconveniences of other forms of wintry weather is part of the "charm" of living in New England. Our world of white looks wonderful after fresh snow and for the young and young at heart it provides recreational opportunities. But it plays havoc with the routines of life, making commutes to work difficult and even dangerous, forcing the cancellation of plans and rescheduling of events.
And for seemingly as long as there have been public schools there has been the challenge for superintendents of what to do about the snow - forge ahead, delay the start of classes to provide time for clearing roads and grounds, or cancel school. Children await these decisions with the anticipation of an unexpected day off from school, parents often with dread about arranging day care or having to explain to a boss why they won't be in that day.
As we watched this play out again last week, when a winter storm dumped a bit more snow than forecasters anticipated, it occurred to us that it may be time for new approaches. With the increase in magnet schools and charter schools, town borders are becoming less of a determinant as to where a student goes to school. It is now common for a family to have siblings heading to different schools in different towns.
Yet school-closing decisions appear to remain a very insular function. In this past storm the region witnessed some towns cancelling school, some delaying, yet others opting for business as usual. For some families, it was mass confusion.
We might suggest some effort at coordination, perhaps an informal conference call of local superintendents in adjacent towns coming to consensus on a course of action based on best information available. It must be recognized that winter weather can vary greatly in southeastern Connecticut, with coastal towns sometimes getting rain or a little inconsequential wet snow while their interior neighbors prepare to shovel out. But the organization of cross-town cooperation could account for these geographical and meteorological variances.
And just think, if a superintendent pulls the plug on school prematurely only to get an inch of snow, wouldn't it be nice to have the neighboring counterpart in the same snowplow?