Friday, January 31, 2014

16 Degrees Below Stupid

Four days.

That’s how long two inches of snow and a few consecutive nights below freezing will keep kids in central North Carolina out of school. Every night this week, promptly at seven o’clock, we’ve received the call that the next day of school is cancelled.

I hate to sound like one of those “knee-deep in three feet of snow, uphill, both ways” kinds of people, but to say I am flummoxed and flabbergasted is an understatement. When I was a kid, we needed six inches on the ground and the threat of more before our administrators would even consider cancelling school. And they would wait until the last possible second to let you know.

Matter of fact, they wouldn’t even let you know. There were no calling systems, text messages, tweets or Facebook posts back then. The only way you found out if you could ditch your books and break out your galoshes was to watch the scrolling bar along the bottom of one of the five available television networks (three national and two local) like a hawk. If you looked away for a second and missed your spot in the alphabetical string of school districts you were screwed and had to wait another fifteen minutes for the next rotation to begin.

It wouldn’t be so bad if our county’s single Tonka snowplow could get to every street. At least this time they managed to salt most of the roads before the snow fell, but snow isn’t our main problem. The entire 24 years I’ve lived in the Sandhills of North Carolina, snow has never really been the problem.

It’s the ice.

It’s the melting snow running across poorly pitched roads that refreezes during the night.

It’s the acres of black ice that cover rural roads lined by trees so high they never let in the sun.

It’s the jackass tailgating you for five miles until he can gun it past you who hits the patch of black ice you were anticipating you might eventually come across and loses control, fishtailing wildly until he kills himself, you and every fur-bearing mammal within a hundred yards of the scene of the crash.

And to top it all off, our school district does not have a single day built into the year that our kids can miss. No cushion at all for inclement weather in a territory prone to winter ice storms, tornadoes, and even the occasional hurricane, meaning each of the four days our kids have missed this week will need to be made up on a Saturday and during breaks.

I would hope, if nothing else, this latest protracted snow flurry teaches the students of our county the meaning of the word “contingency.”

© 2014 Mark Feggeler

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