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Redefining a calamity

Published: Sun, February 1, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

Redefining a calamity

The same week that Gov. Ted Strickland talked about the need to expand Ohio’s school year to 200 days, two Mahoning Valley school districts shut down for three days because of snow.

The superintendents of Youngstown and Warren city school districts were clearly concerned about the ability of their buses to navigate unplowed side streets and they worried that children forced to walk in the streets because of unshoveled sidewalks would be in danger.

Such concerns are understandable. And yet ...

Just over the state line, Sharon city schools continued to operate, and Sharon certainly has side streets — and its terrain has more hills than Warren or Youngstown.

Tale of two states

Anyone who watches the closings scroll across the bottom of a television screen on a snowy morning can’t help but notice that Ohio schools close far more readily than their Pennsylvania counterparts. It rarely has to do with the Ohio side of the line getting more snow, more ice or colder temperatures. Pennsylvania law requires that schools be in session for 180 days; Ohio law encourages schools to be open for 182 days, but provides for four “calamity days.”

There was a day not long ago when Ohioans would have been ashamed to acknowledge that six inches of snow constituted a calamity.

Children should not be placed in unnecessary danger. By the same token, what does it say about the value we place on education when it takes more than a day or two to clear the streets for school buses or when it can’t be assumed that parents or neighbors will do their part to get children to school safely two days after a storm passes through?

We don’t want to sound like the old timers who recall walking 10 miles to school each day, uphill both ways. But administrators, city officials and parents are sending the wrong message when schools are closed too quickly or for too many days.


1Cbarzak(110 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Though I am much in sympathy with wanting our children to go to school as many days as possible, and with wanting our parents to help them get there on difficult days, I think whoever has written this isn't viewing this incident with all of its factors involved. Didn't the Vindicator itself just run an article on why the roads here were such a mess for those three days? Because of the wrong mix of ash and salt? How there wasn't enough salt to actually melt the ice and clear the roads correctly?


My guess is that schools would have been open a lot sooner if that factor wouldn't have existed in the first place.

The school systems made the right choice when they cannot take chances of endangering their pupils--OR their pupils' parents--by asking them to drive or walk on dangerous roads that might have been less dangerous, like PA's, had the city ordered the right mix of salt and slag. Asking parents and neighbors to drive on those roads is inviting more problems to occur. Just because a person is an adult does not make them immune to accidents on roads that have not been properly treated.

Value education, yes, but along with that, value it under the right conditions: placing the responsibility on parents and neighbors to go out on roads that have not been properly treated makes this editorial's logic faulty.

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