I coached a lot of youth baseball and softball when our two sons and two daughters were growing up. I enjoyed most of that experience.
Aside from the occasional parent who questioned lineup or position choices, the one thing I remember dreading was threatening skies right before a scheduled practice.
Games were easy. The league decided whether or not games got played if the weather forecast looked bad.
But in Central New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1990s, teams were assigned practice times and it was up to the coach to decide whether or not to cancel.
I hated having to cancel practice or two reasons. First, practice time was scarce and I felt it was the best time to really teach.
Second, a litany of phone calls would be required to alert parents of the change of schedule. This was before the days of widespread text messaging and even emails. A lot of people didn’t have cellphones yet.
I always kept the phone list with me at the office. Often my wife Mary or one of the older kids would help out making the calls.
Odds were, of course, that if I cancelled the sun would come back out, and if I didn’t everyone would get drenched.
I thought about those days in recent weeks as the annual winter ritual of superintendents deciding whether or not to close schools because of pending snow and ice played out.
Reporter Joe Sylvester did a story about that a week ago. Among the people he spoke to was Milton Area School District Superintendent Cathy Keegan, who made the decision to keep Milton schools open on Feb. 20 while most other Valley districts took the day off.
It was not, she admitted, an easy call.
“Our decision-making is balancing the weather report with the state of the roads after talking with our townships and borough, the numbers of walkers and students transported and our food insecure families,” Keegan told Joe. “Weather resources we utilize include NOAA and AccuWeather, which we have found both to be reliable.”
She said they work through weather events and keep lines of communication open. It worked out. Both Milton and Warrior Run districts got a few hours in and dismissed before the worst of the weather hit.
Thomas Scholvin, Shikellamy School District’s substitute superintendent, was one of the many officials who decided to cancel that morning.
“It’s a crapshoot,” Scholvin admitted to Joe.
He said staff members drive around to check local road conditions as district officials take the forecast into consideration.
For parents with both family and work responsibilities, snow days can be a real problem. Mary was a teacher many of the years we were raising our kids. If they were off, she was off.
Most are not that fortunate. Many employers are understanding in these situations, but not all.
Still, if a superintendent is going to err, it has to be on on the side of safety.
Inconvenience aside, you’ve got to have sympathy for the folks who have to make those decisons.
Maybe take a deep breath and try to remember how excited you used to be as a kid when you got a snow day off.
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