Storm days recommendations obvious: student's father

Raissa Tetanish
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AMHERST - The father of a local elementary school student can't believe it took four months to come up with recommendations for storm days that should be obvious to anyone.

Jim Kerr, whose daughter attends Spring Street Academy, said he was astounded to find out there was no policy in place in regards to storm days, which is one of Jim Gunn's recommendations from the study.

"His recommendations are a blinding statement of the obvious," Kerr said when hearing some of Gunn's recommendations included better communications with parents and contingency plans to make up for lost time due to snow days.

Another recommendation, which included sharing government and board resources such as hourly weather forecasts and highways cameras, had Kerr scared.

"The school boards are making themselves into the weatherman," he said, adding that none would be qualified to forecast the weather.

Schools were closed 13 times county-wide during last year's winter season, but that didn't mean the board didn't close schools on an individual basis. Schools in Parrsboro and Advocate had at least one more closure than the remaining schools in the Chignecto family.

"Of those days, two or three of those could have been considered snow days because the Cobequid Pass had been closed part of the time and it effected businesses in town," said Kerr. "But those other days, school was cancelled because it might snow or it had snowed a little."

School Storm Days in Nova Scotia: A Discussion Paper was released on Wednesday, and was written by Gunn, a former school board superintendent for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board.

The paper was prompted thanks to the high school cancellations last year throughout the province.

"What do you do when you lose those days?" asked Kerr. "It isn't that much of a big deal when you're in Primary or even up to Grade 2 or 3, but what about high school students? There is no fudging in the curriculum after that. In high school, you lose those days. You can't get them back."

Aside from better communication with parents, contingency plans for lost days and sharing government and board resources, the paper also included three other recommendations.

Gunn recommended developing consistent language and terminology for cancellations, opening discussions with teachers to use snow days as time to collaborate professionally and addressing concerns of other board employee groups affected by cancellations.

One of the contingency plans for making up lost days included sending home learning packages, while another idea was opening schools later in the day if the weather improves.

Kerr is all for the idea of opening the schools halfway through the day.

"How can they close the schools halfway through the day, creating havoc for a lot of parents, yet they can't open the schools later in the day?

"It's not about the children anymore. For the most part, it's in keeping with the unions," Kerr said.

Kerr also feels that if parents are able to drive their children to school on days when it's snowing, children should be allowed to go.

"A lot of people will say they don't have a car, and that's often true because I've driven my daughter's friends to school. But when the rest of the town is able to function, why can't the students go in?"

rtetanish@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Street Academy, Annapolis Valley Regional School Board

Geographic location: AMHERST, Parrsboro, Chignecto Nova Scotia

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  • m
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    I'm thinking that Mr Kerr does not realize that a high precentage of the students are bus students ,so opening the school when the buses are not run would not be fair to those student ,they would be marked absent and fall be behind in their work because the teachers would be teaching the town students .When the buses were on strike a few years ago it strom pretty much every day and the school was not close any of those day which put big time stress on the parents that felt they had to get their child to school so they would not fall behind in their school work ,All I can say is thank god no one got kill at that time because there was one to many times that the roads where not fit to be on .I as a parent who lives 30 mins out of town would sooner have my children under my feet then take the chance of never having them under my feet again .

  • Another 2 Cents
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Icy Hotpatch,

    There will always be idiots out there - some kids may chose to go to the ski hill as will others (teachers) with the day off too - perhaps you can be one of them and check for yourself!

  • Jennifer
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    What about the teachers and staff who can't make it in due to the weather?

    So your kid who lives a couple of blocks away can make it to school but the teachers who live 10+ kilometers away can't make it - then what? You have kids with no supervision or kids of multiple grades in one classroom. How can they be properly taught?

    I for one loved snow days in the country - we went outside and played all day in the snow.

    Here in Alberta, schools rarely close - our kids go to school till about -35, and our secondary streets don't ever get plowed all winter! We haven't had a snow day yet this winter, lots of snow and stormy weather though.

    I agree with keeping kids safe, absolutely. But how good is it for them just to be sitting inside a school building with half the students and staff present? What are they really getting out of it?

    Seems like this is all about numbers, not safety or education of the students.

  • Gerard
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Hey Jim K, can you give me a ride to port elgin?

  • WTH?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    The board closes the entire school in bad weather because, believe it or not, if the school was kept open there are parents who would send their kids out in weather that wasn't fit for a sled dog.

    For crying out loud this isn't a competition to see whose kids can get the most class time, this is our kids' safety we're talking about.

  • Kim
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I think half days are acceptible, either in the morning or the afternoon as the case may be. I've seen at least a few days last winter where schools were cancelled and no storm happened nor did it ever look like one would happen throughout the day.
    If bus drivers can't drive in winter conditions, why are they school bus drivers? If a bus can't make it in, does that mean the kids that can get to school shouldn't go too? What's this about: schools, unions, or kids education?
    We need an education system that is reliable and dependable. And that's not to say we need them to be babysitters.
    Also, for many, both parents working is not a convenience, it's a necessity, and some of us are one parent families.

  • DJ
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I for one agree with Mr. Kerr. He is not suggesting we put our children on buses when its unsafe to do so but he is hoping the school board will take more pro-active steps to keep the schools open for those who can make it to school safely. I can't imagine why someone who lives a 5 minute walk from school can't be asked to go to school on a day when the school buses are not running. Furthermore, often there are times when the schools are cancelled for the day at the threat of a storm. I strongly support the idea of opening up our schools part way through the day if it is safe to do so. There were times last year when school was cancelled for the day even though we never got the storm that had been predicted.

    Bottom line - teachers and students who are able to safely make it in to school on days when the buses are not running should be doing so and the school board should be making best efforts to keep the schools open.

  • amherstguy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Perfect response Donna. I truly think that Mr. Kerr just talks/writes to hear himself without giving any thought to what he is saying. I, for one ,(and I assume I speak for many) would far sooner see kids safe at home as oppossed to being out on icy/snowy roads. And give it some true thought, do you really think that missing a few days of school is really going to impact the lives and futures of these children that much???? I am also happy to see someone (another two cents) state some true info. The school year, for MANY years consisted of 185 teaching days. It is now 195 so the kids aren't really missing any time. They are, in fact, receiving more instrustion then I did. Keep them safe, when stormy, keep them home where they should be.

  • jimK
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Jeez - Ican't believe the opposition to getting our kids the best education possible! I'm well aware of the school days added to partially make up for snow days, but don't be too proud of that policy. Ontario directs a MINIMUM of 194 school days per year. Most other Provinces have a similar minimum standard. In NS, we start at 195, but after in-service days and snow days, last year we were down to about 175 days. Our kids did fall behind, there's no doubt. We can afford a few snow days, but we also need a minimum number to keep our kids competitive. Other Provinces don't close their schools in bad weather, so they don't lose those days. I'm also very familiar with school buses, as I rode them throughout primary and high school. Once in awhile the school buses didn't run, but the schools didn't close and I was usually able to get a drive to class. This is not about safety - no one wants their kids put at risk, but if every other business in Amherst is operating normally as they are during most snow days, what exactly is the risk to our kids? They can't go to school, but they seem to have no trouble getting to the malls. Is it wise to make our kids afraid of winter? Should they be learning to stay home every time it snows? What kind of life lesson is that? This is Canada - it snows -deal with it - don't hide under the bed. I'm glad this subject generates so much discussiion. I am encouraged that the school board is looking at their policies - it's about time. It can only help to offer our kids the education they deserve.

  • Icy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    The next time school is closed because of bad roads, somebody needs to drive to Ski Wentworth and see how many teachers and parents have braved the elements to get there.

  • donna
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I find this article quite disturbing...perhaps Mr. Kerr should get a job driving a school bus for a day during inclemant weather! A few years back I drove a school bus on the outskirts of Springhill during the winter months...it was an eye opener for myself and my family. How many people would want to be responsible for a bus load of children, regardless of age, during poor weather conditions...not many! My husband and I have two teenagers and not one storm day ever disrupted their studies...perhaps parents should go back to being just that...parents! It is not up to our schools to parent our children nor babysit them so that it is more convenient for parents to work. Safety should come first with our children..the rest will follow!

  • WTH?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    JimK, Good gravy man! Many businesses operate seven days a week, snow or shine, because they have to in order to stay in business. How many people risk their lives driving in poor weather conditions because if they don't go into work they won't get paid and they just can't afford to lose the money? Too darned many and the result is loss of life.

    You might be willing risk your kids' lives because you don't want to pay a babysitter or need to feel like you're a good parent by having an obsessed overachiever, but don't cr@p on those of us who are more concerned about our children's safety!

  • Ron
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Why bother Gerard? Since Jimbo wants half days at least, by the time you ride in town on the bus and do 1 hour of class, it will be time to leave again. Unless Jimbo wants longer days for students? Give me a break.

  • Jamie
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Mr.Kerr....you need to research before you go running your mouth off. You should keep your nose out of things that you know nothing about. NS has 195 teaching days which is 10 more then NB...the reason for this is to MAKE UP for storm days...SO...in actually fact the students aren't missing out on work as long as there are under 10 storm days a year...you should feel bad for the NB students who have to make up the time and be HAPPY that our board takes childrens safety into consideration!!!

  • Gary
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I work for a living and I have to be there even if it snows. I think that, like ANY parental decision, common sense and judgment are required. I am sure no one wants the kids in danger. I am sure no one wants the kids to miss too much school. It is through discussions like this that all points are reflected. It is good to have dialogue people - don't put that down! When it comes to our children we should be willing to consider everything.
    I think that the schools are closing more often than needed. A proper policy is needed and this should not be too hard to figure out since we have far more technology and far less harsh winters than when I was a kid.

  • HERE WE GO
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    didn't we go through this last year with Mr. Kerr? I just can't wrap my brain around what his problem is with schools being closed during inclement weather or the potential threat of it - does he not like having his children underfoot on those days? So far this winter, snow days have been minimal (have we even had one?) - I agree a better safe than sorry approach is the way to go when it comes to the safety of our children.

  • Another 2 Cents
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    In NS we have the most teaching days than any other province!

    Days were added years ago to make up for the days missed back then.

    Again, the safety of students is the most important thing. I hate to see the day when a student is killed.

    ADN, it's like a broken record with this issue!