I love winter. Seriously, I do. I love the white snow when it blankets the ground. I just wish it would stay off the sidewalks and streets. I love the crisp air — at least until I get my heating bill. I am sincerely happy for those who make their living operating ski lifts and other outside venue. They have had some lean years recently.
But, like many others, this year I am ready to see signs of spring. I don’t like walking on slippery sidewalks or driving in blustery weather. I am tired of trying to plan events with the caveat “weather permitting.” I love curling up with a good book, but I am ready to do it on the screened porch or at the beach.
I know many of you have had enough of winter, too. You are weary of fender benders, whiteouts, and events being cancelled. You are tired of frozen pipes, snow weighing down your roof, and piles of wet boots by the door. You are tired of snow days if you are a parent who needs to adjust their schedule or find someone to care for their children at the last minute because school has been cancelled. It has been a long stretch and just about everyone will be happy when spring flowers appear and the temperature climbs. Of course, before long we will be complaining about the heat, but that’s another story.
Trust me; no one is more weary of all of this than the staff at your local schools. Maintenance people are weary of shoveling or plowing snow from sidewalks and parking lots, only to have to re-do it a short time later. They are tired of cleaning off flat roofs. Inside, although it is usually easy to find things to do on the first or second snow day, things get caught up and it gets harder after a few days.
Bus drivers have had a challenging couple of months. They take very seriously their responsibility to transport students safely and to return their vehicle to the garage undamaged. Planning food is more difficult when you are not sure whether there will be school. Music teachers, coaches and others struggle to have their students ready to participate in competitions or events. Making arrangements to re-schedule activities is very challenging.
Students may mind the least — or at least profess to — when school is cancelled. At first it is a like a game predicting whether there will be school tomorrow. But if they are honest, I think most of them will admit they will be glad to see things back to “normal.” And I am certain that there will be many students, parents and teachers who will not look back with pleasure on cancelled school days when we have to make up time by having school later in June. It will be much harder to remember anything good about school being cancelled and they will have only regrets that they cannot start their vacation.
Perhaps those who are affected the most are administrators who are responsible for making the difficult decisions about when it is safe to have school. Conditions are not the same in all parts of a district that spans 144 square miles. When city streets and main highways have been cleared, country roads may be dangerous or impassable. The decisions made may endanger lives, inconvenience families and definitely will impact the education delivered. Yet every day these people are out at 3 or 4 a.m. checking roads, consulting others and then making the decisions that will please some and cause others to question their wisdom.
The most refreshing thing this year has been a sense that we are all in this together. Parents have expressed appreciation for the concern for their child’s safety even when it has caused them inconvenience. I cannot recall a year when there has been so much understanding. I do not know if it has been that way everywhere, but I have heard more recognition of the challenges a hard winter brings than I can ever remember. That is truly what makes special communities.
Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.