Monday, January 6, 2014

To Close or Not to Close, That is the Question

So the School District has not made up their minds about whether to have school tomorrow? Should be a no-brainer! 60% of the Philly public school kids walk to school. Granted, some live across the street, but the district closed 23 schools last year and some of those kids have to walk a mile or more to their new school. The other 40% mostly travel on SEPTA, with a small percentage (certain special ed kids) riding yellow school busses. Those who take SEPTA will have to wait for busses on the corner, when wind chills are scheduled to feel like –20 F (-28C) To require students to be exposed to those temperatures amounts to child abuse.

Some of my friends in Winnipeg, Canada, where it was colder than Mars last week, may be laughing at me for suggesting schools should close when it’s 0-5 F, (about –15C) and wind chills will be –20F (-29C), but you are talking about a school district where 40% of the kids are at or below the poverty line, meaning they may not have good winter coats, hats, gloves and shoes that can protect them from the frigid air.

Another thing to consider is the age and heating systems of the buildings, many of which are approaching 100 years old. Our school’s heater is a tempermental thing. The building engineer has to cajole it into keeping the temperature in the building comfortable. It is just as likely that your classroom could be 55F (12C) or 95F (35C), depending on which side of the building you are on, and which floor. Sitting in a 55F classroom requires coats for all and hats and gloves for many. Many of the kids only have sneakers for shoes. Once your feet get cold, in my experience, your whole body gets cold. One good thing though, nobody will fall asleep!

Seriously, though, when the kids get to school, there is a 20% chance there will also be a nurse in school to check for signs of frostbite. There is a 40% chance there will be no counselor to obtain warm clothes for the children who need them.  If they walk to school in that cold and then have to sit in a school that is struggling to heat to a comfortable temperature, there is no telling the physical and mental damage you could be doing to the child.

No school on Tuesday, SRC. Do the right thing.


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