Early Thursday morning, Jan. 15, after I arrived at my office, I turned on my computer and checked my e-mail. That's when I saw the surprise message that schools in South Washington County were closed due to extreme temperatures.
"Oh no, school is closed!"
I wasn't happy about school closing, but this time, at least, I got the news and could let my kids know so they didn't have to wait for the bus in vain, as happened to them the last time.
A few years ago, when the first school closing happened to us due to the same weather condition, we didn't know anything about it in advance. My son and a few other kids waited and waited at the bus stop. And the bus never came.
I didn't want that cold experience to happen to other families. So I contacted a few friends to let them know.
One of my friends, who is a teacher in St. Paul, said, "Don't expect this to happen in St Paul."
St. Paul or Minneapolis school districts rarely close their schools.
I imagine there were some busy parents who dropped their kids at schools on Thursday morning, only to find that the buildings were closed.
I could also imagine there were some kids who stood at the bus stop waiting for the bus on Thursday morning, but it never came.
Well, not much imagination was needed. These things certainly happened.
In fact, someone I know dropped her kid at school and went on to work, only to be called back later to pick up her child.
Once parents found out that there was no school, many had to scramble and rearrange their schedule for the day. For working parents, they had to find other day care arrangement or take the day off to stay home with their kids.
Then the same thing happened again on Friday, Jan. 16.
"Oh no, school is closed -- again!"
I am sure this same thought went through many parents' minds.
School cancellation causes inconvenience for many, and maybe some hardship for a few.
Personally, I don't have problems with day care for my kids because they can stay home with grandparents. But still, I don't like school closing.
The St. Paul newspaper had this fitting headline on its cover on Jan. 15: "What'd you expect? It's Minnesota."
If St. Paul and Minneapolis families could tough it out, why couldn't we in Woodbury? I have other reasons to be concerned about school closing.
American schools already have one of the shortest school years in the world.
We just had our holiday break. In January, we have four scheduled no school days, Jan. 1, 2, 19 and 26. Now we added two more no school days. It feels like a lot of no school days to me.
A District 833 official said that "the extra days off won't be an added burden on students and teachers to stay on track with their courses."
When my son told me their fifth-graders got to skip the MAP reading test which was scheduled on one of the two days, for me at least, it meant they did have to give up on something that I think is important.
The test could tell me whether and how my son has progressed in his reading over the last few months.
I know school closing is decided by the superintendent or his designee, based on the best interests of the students and employees. One person's decision affects tens of thousands of people.
I wonder whether this should be the job of parents to decide what is in the best interest of their kids.
Personally I would prefer to have our school district send out an advanced alert about the severe weather condition.
Parents could be encouraged to take their kids to school, or they could make the choice of skipping school.
Parents should use their own judgment to do what is in the best interest of their kids and families.
My preference is to let parents make the decision, unless the weather and road condition is really bad we have to cancel, in case we have a terrible snow storm.
In that case, I would appreciate receiving a phone call from school instead of an e-mail.
How many parents have time or would think to check e-mail and websites, or watch TV early in the morning?
I often get automated phone messages from school about fundraising events. Why can't we get an automated phone message for school closing? At least this could prevent all unnecessary trips to school or waiting at the bus stop and save a lot of frustration.
A friend in Woodbury whose daughter who is in the Stillwater School District said she got phone calls at home, on her cell and in her office about their school closing.
I hope our school district could provide this kind of courtesy call.
When it comes to make the decision to close school, I understand different factors are taking into consideration. I admit I only see a few trees and not the forest or the whole picture.
I also understand that other parents may have different opinions about school closing. It is OK to have different points of view. We are all different and think differently.
I just want to share my own thoughts here.
In the end, we can at least all agree with what our superintendent once said: "You can't please everyone."