Thursday, January 15, 2009

School's open in Foster-Glocester. . .

Today: widespread school cancellations (including Providence, but not Foster-Glocester!!!). For the record, it's wicked cold but no snow at this hour (8:00am). Perhaps a good day and time to ask a few questions :

1. What are the criteria for closing school in Providence?

2. What are the costs? I am seeking evidence for my belief that quite frequently, many Providence kids are safer at school. At home on a day like this, I believe (though do know have evidence that demonstrates) that may kids are more likely to be exposed to violence, may not eat well, and especially on a day like this, may be cold. I hope that every kid's home has heat, but I suspect not. I suspect that not every kid has a home to heat in the first place.

3. What are the benefits? Clearly, in a blizzard, kids are likely to be safer not on the roads. Kids who routinely walk to school are less likely to be exposed to the cold, and many of them may not have adequate coats/hats/mittens. Are there benefits to keeping them home otherwise? What are those? In cold like this, are buses less likely to run well? Will schools be too cold? What's happening that may not be evident (at least to me)?

I believe--I think many family members believe--that cancelling school today wasn't the right decision. And that makes sense: making the call to cancel school the night before is a guessing game, and sometimes the Superintendent is going to guess wrong. I'm not hammering on the wrongness of the decision. I am wondering what factors went into it, and how those factors can be communicated.

The decision to close school is out there, very public. Anyone with an opinion (and we've all got one) can praise, condemn, or express indifference. And it's one of many decisions made about and on behalf of schoolchildren every day. Many of those decisions, most of them, are invisible. The public only gets to see, and therefore can only discuss, these big public ones, so they become fodder for public opinion on how the Superintendent in particular is doing--and that carries the potential of making school opening/closing/delay calls into more of a PR exercise and less of a decision about safety and kids' welfare. There may well be additional forces (union, city) that are less apparent.

So what were the factors that went into today's decision? I'm supportive of the Superintendent thus far, and (want very much to ) believe that the call was based on safety factors and what's best for Providence's kids and their families. That said, I'd like to understand it better.

Decisions and their supporting evidence that affect the welfare and future of kids more significantly than whether or not they're in school today--about curriculum, and teacher hiring and professional development, and facilities, and all of the big factors that impact our city's young people in meaningful ways--need to be as public as this, and as likely to engender opinion, feeling, and perhaps, collective action. And I want us, family members and others, to feel entitled to ask for the evidence that support those decisions, for PPSD administration to be in the habit of providing that evidence.


UPDATE: Here's the ProJo's news blog reporting widespread "surprise" at the widespread closings, including an excerpt from a statement from Tom Brady last night with unsurprising reasons for the closure. Glad there was a statement; not glad it took me, a person who was looking for it, this long to see (part of) it.

Again, the focus for me is not so much on the decision, as much as I think it wasn't the best choice for many kids' welfare, as it is on using this as a way to talk about developing a culture of civilized, insistent inquiry among parents and family members about the decisions that are being made about and on behalf of our kids.


  1. Given that we've learned that the cost of not calling school can be the superintendent being fired, I think we're going to have to put up with a year or two of excessive school cancellation.

  2. Given that it's 3:21 in the afternoon and nary a drop of snow has fallen, I think that the call was particularly lame.

    We haven't yet heard how many days school will be extended, nor how much this will cost....