Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gears - Snow Days - By Jeffrey J. Thivierge

You know what really grinds my gears....?

School closing.

I graduated from Van Buren District Secondary School in 1994.  Van Buren is not a town for the faint of heart.  When I left Van Buren, the population was right at the 3,000 mark and was steadily shrinking, mostly because Loring Air Force Base had just closed.  Those that remember the BRAC hearings that ended up closing the base would remember that “quality of life” for the Airmen assigned to the area was one of the reasons that was stated for its eventual closure.  Quality of Life was code for “Mother of GOD it’s flipping COLD up here”.

Fast-forward 20 years and here I sit in balmy southern Maine.  Van Buren has been mentioned on the national news for reaching 47 degrees below zero without the wind chill and it’s around 10 below in the local area.  My wife and I tell my daughter that she has school today and that Westbrook schools haven’t been cancelled.  My daughter thinks that this level of incompetence is at the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and that the superintendent of schools should be impeached (my words, not hers).  I tell her that this is par for the course in Maine.

(Sit back, sonny, because I’m about to tell you a story from my youth...)

Back when I was a kid, we had these things on the school calendar called “Snow Days” that were intended to be used to make-up any time missed from weather events.  Snow Days appeared in the month of June on our calendar.  I speak of them as if they are mythical, because from grades K thru 12, I can’t remember our school ever being called off for snow, let alone be cancelled because of the “frigid” zero degree weather.  Nope.  Our superintendent would force the bus drivers, teachers, and parents to suck it up and get to school.  Generally speaking, on the worst snow days, we would have a half day, simply because these would be counted as a teacher/pupil day and would not have to be made up in June.

Last Thursday, most schools were supposed to be going back into session after Christmas break.  The two inches of snow that had accumulated by 5 a.m. was enough to scare even the hardest of today’s superintendents, though, because pretty much every school was closed.  My daughter actually got annoyed with us because we didn’t tell her early enough and she had already started primping herself for a hard day of looking at boys in her middle school.  Never mind that she could’ve just as easily logged on to her iPhone and learned of the school being closed.... but it was our fault for not telling her before we had found out ourselves.  

I don’t quite understand why things are so different from one end of the state to the other.  We get less snow here than we did in the frozen tundra of Aroostook County and on our coldest days, it doesn’t compare to what we had up there.  

I do, however, remember that my parents walked six miles to school in four feet of snow, uphill both ways.  So I guess my views may be a bit skewed at this point.  I just wonder what my kid will tell her kids when she’s my age.... I can just imagine it now.  “When I was your age, I only had a laptop, iPad and iPhone, and I actually had to log on to a website to find out if school was cancelled.”

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