Sometimes you know that you just can’t win.
I had a lot of empathy for school administrators across the Front Range last week when they had to make decisions about whether schools should be open during the frigid temperatures. All the school districts in the area closed schools Tuesday, and only Denver opened its schools Wednesday.
School officials’ concerns about public reaction to keeping schools closed for a second day were evident in the message Jefferson County Public Schools sent to parents when announcing that schools would be shuttered for a second day. The message included information about testing the district had done on its bus fleet, saying that, in the very cold weather, bus reliability had been compromised severely and that part of the reason schools wouldn’t open was because of concerns about whether buses would be able to get to kids and then get them to school.
Denver was criticized for opening its schools Wednesday, and roughly a third of students didn’t go to school. Its superintendent made it clear that any child who didn’t attend would be granted an excused absence, and he mentioned that, for some families, it’s important that kids go to school to get hot meals.
Despite many comments from parents about walking 5 miles each way to school in waist-deep snow, uphill both ways, during their younger days, it was prudent for school officials to err on the side of caution during the cold snap. Whether or not we were tougher in our day, last week’s weather was an anomaly in current conditions, and we, collectively, would not have been properly prepared to make sure kids were safe. While it’s inconvenient when schools close and parents have to scramble to make arrangements, our school administrators are to be commended for putting kids’ safety first last week when deciding whether or not to open schools.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.