Even by Snow Belt standards, Snowmageddon was respectable.
The difference is, of course, that in the Snow Belt plowing equipment stands ready to clear the roads and open schools provided that there isn’t also a howling wind and zero visibility.
Snow Belt plows are behemoths, two huge blades jutting out from the prow of the truck and two more blades on the side. They rumble along country roads, spitting out sand behind them. There are few things scarier in northern life than encountering one of these monsters bearing down on you from the middle of the road, wing blades plowing both lanes simultaneously. You pray that the driver sees you in your tiny car and picks up the wing blade on your side of the road before you meet.
I happened to be in Virginia when the first big storm hit and saw 5 little plows lined up ready to tackle the roads. No offense, but they looked like toy Tonka trucks. But really, it makes no sense to house a fleet of plows to haul out every few years. Instead, people basically wait for the snow to melt. The result is that schools can be closed for a very long time.
Schools in the North generally include snow days in the yearly school calendar – sometimes up to 5 or 6 additional days. (Some teachers’ contracts include “giving back” in the spring all or some of the days that aren’t used.) Of course, the great majority of the time there is no need for that many emergency days in Virginia and Washington, so now school people there are rightly concerned about how to make up the lost instructional time.
Even those who are worried about the lost time will not be excited about adding days at the end of the school year or giving up Easter vacation – and that includes kids and parents. Extending the school day for a few extra minutes may fulfill the letter of attendance laws but not the spirit and is unlikely to enhance classroom instruction. Basically it looks as if teachers will have to take a hard look at what’s essential and what isn’t and plan accordingly (which is what we should all be doing whether we lose days or not). It will be interesting to see if the loss of instructional time results in a dip in test scores at the end of the year.