My superintendent in high school, amid our school’s consistently low test scores and high dropout rate, could always take pride in the fact that he never once canceled school because of snow, despite snowdrifts that devoured small pickups and road conditions so dangerous that even those perplexing kids who cherished each moment of the school day turned to their moms and said, “Hell no. I’m watching movies today.” But down in North Carolina, my father’s home state that I frequented as a child, chaos was unleashed the moment the peculiar white stuff began its descent from the heavens. We call it snow – they call it the apocalypse.
In general, Montana schools have strict criteria for “snow days.” My school was only slightly different in the fact that there were no criteria. You either dug, slid, wiggled, revved and plowed your way to school, or you fell a day behind in notes. Perhaps you missed a pop quiz. During my winter trips to North Carolina, I recall visiting family friends in a town outside of Charlotte and getting caught up in the snow panic. A light snow would cripple the town. Schools shut down. Parents, after making sure the kids were safe at home, would brave the treacherous roads, dusted with a half-inch of melting snow, and risk their lives to make it to the grocery store, in hopes of stocking up on milk and bread. Maybe eggs if there was time.
Back home in Livingston, three miles up a poorly maintained gravel road, stood my childhood house. After a big snow, heinous winds would craft three-foot snowdrifts at both the edge of our garage door and the base of the driveway. So in the morning if I, or my parents, was able to clear enough snow away with a shovel, I could make it out of the garage, only to get stuck 50 feet later next to the mailbox. Many times we gave it a commendable effort, but other times we peeked out the front window and gave up before we started. Hundreds of other kids didn’t make it to school on the worst of those days for the same reason or because buses couldn’t run. Still, when teachers were available, classes started on schedule.
I haven’t been in Kalispell long enough to know the requirements for a snow day. Ten inches? Two feet? Never? But I know, looking at the thin layer of snow outside today, that this would all be too much down in North Carolina and other places of similar climate. By first light this morning, hell would have broken loose. At the very least, kids wouldn’t be going to school. In Montana, though, we must ask our kids to brave the conditions, to shovel a path to school if necessary – to understand that if a snow day is called, they should treasure it.
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