Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ordinarily, Fairfax County Public Schools is pretty quick to cancel school in the event of bad weather.... heck, sometimes, they've cancelled school merely because there's been a threat of bad weather.

But cancelling school for three days after the snow and ice storm that hit almost two weeks ago has emptied their reserve of snow days. As such, if bad weather leads to school being cancelled, the school system has to make up that lost time sometime before the end of the school year. They have a few options for doing so: they can hold classes on a holiday or other day on which there weren't supposed to be class, they can extend the school year by whatever number of days they need to make up, or they can - my personal favorite - add a few minutes of supposed class time to some number of school days to make up for the lost hours.

Of course, none of these options are popular. Nobody - parents, students, teachers, staff - wants to lose holidays. Nor do they want to extend the year or have to juggle schedules by extending the school day (lots of after school activities are geared to school being over at a certain time each day).

Which means that the snow storm that hit today leaves the school system in a bit of a pickle. County streets and sidewalks will still be messy tomorrow, and in the past, the schools have called off classes if there's been even a smidgeon of streets that haven't been cleared.

So what is it going to be for Fairfax County? Will they discover a spine and hold classes despite conditions that in the past they've used to justify cancelling school? And if they do so, how will they explain their previous rush to cancel classes?

Or will they alienate the staff and parents who will have to adjust their schedules to make up a day?

Or... will they throw in the towel and claim that the mandate to hold a certain number of school days is only 'advisory' in nature and that they don't need to make up the lost days?

Me? I'm betting on the last option. For all their talk, it's been clear to me for years that Fairfax County schools are not run for the benefits of the students but for the teachers and the staff. It's not because students have trouble getting to school that they cancel school so quickly, it's because the teachers and staff complain about having to drive in. And a superintendent who forgets who is really important is a superintendent who is on his way to needing another job.

UPDATE: I just learned that they can call off school tomorrow and not have to make it up. Apparently, the first three days called off during the year don't have to be made up, the fourth day does, but, get this, the fifth day (which tomorrow would be) missed because of bad weather doesn't. It makes no sense...