Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Snow Days Are A Myth

You heard me. Snow Days are a MYTH! They don't exist! They're like unicorns or palm trees. I will fight you on this! (I may not win, but I will fight you.)

Bear in mind that I consider a "Snow Day" to be a day when the majority of schools in an area are closed. I think the last time that happened in Ottawa, Ontario was January 2012 (which was an exam day, not an instructional day, and I think it may have been principal's discretion).

It certainly wasn't a mythical "Snow Day" today, so let's "Day in the Life" my Tuesday for your amusement.


Monday evening, Environment Canada was warning that the city could see 20cm to 40cm of snow (8-16 inches) the next day. Woke up the next morning, and sure enough, busses were cancelled, schools were open. As you do.

The procedure at this point is to head to your school, if it's safe to do so. (If it's not, I believe you proceed the nearest school you can get to safely.) There was maybe 5cm (under 2 inches) on my driveway, I cleared it, looked safe enough.

8:20am: Arrive at school. Only 10% of our students are bussed. Looks like less than 90% of students in the halls though.

8:30am: First period. There's an announcement to let students arrive without a late slip before 9am. I end up with 6 of 22 students. My backup plan for Gr 12 data management was to talk some cryptography. It relates to the probabilities we're doing, and I can make a period of that.

9:50am: Second period. I end up with 8 of 28 students. I don't have a good backup plan for Gr 11 "Functions", so I show some new trig (which I'll be going over again next unit anyway), take up some work, show another video, and end by singing "Polar Plot". (Tune of "Let It Go", you can check it out here, if you're so inclined.)

11:05am: Lunch. Enter the attendance. Fight with people on Twitter about Snow Days being a myth. (Lisgar is legit closed due to a water pipe bursting. But I maintain one or two schools closed doesn't count - our school was closed some years ago due to heavy snow on the roof. That was only us.)


11:50am: Just before end of lunch, I check in with the librarian. She's doing a presentation about human libraries for a teacher today and opened it up to other classes. I figured my smaller college level math class might be interested.

12:00pm: Third period. I have 4 of 8 students. One would prefer math, so I get him into the blue room (a quiet work space), and off to the library with the others. At least one of them saw it in the morning; I say oh well, work on your computer.

1:20pm: Fourth/Prep period. Having been able to accomplish ZILCH thus far today, I try to figure out how to manage the rest of the week. I also make a phone call, leaving a message for them to get back to me at this number.

2:00pm: Vice Principal stops into prep room. Says we can leave, it's getting pretty bad out there. But I'm now in the midst of figuring out Google Docs related to last Friday's PD day, and I'm waiting on my phone call.

2:30pm: Teacher comes in, says she was out in the parking lot. Nearly hit by a car driven by a parent, who was trying to exit the queue of cars picking up students.

(Photo by a co-worker)
2:35pm: End of school day. Snow days are a myth. On the right, you can see what the parking lot looked like.

2:40pm: I get my phone call. I give my wife a call, and head out to the parking lot. Snow is up to the base of the doors, about 30 cm (12 inches) has fallen. It's still snowing.

3:45pm: Many of us are still helping students and teachers get their cars out of the parking lot. The little plow driven by custodians is also prone to getting hung up on the snow. Speed bumps are not our friends. Posted some fun quotes to my Twitter feed this eve. (Search #SnowDaysAreAMyth)

4:00pm: I'm on the road heading home. I try to avoid what I hear is an accident on St. Joseph by taking the 174. End up stuck on the off ramp for St. Laurent for over half an hour - an accordion bus is stuck in the right hand turn lane.

I hear on the CBC that Ottawa has hit a record snowfall for a single day, beating some record set back in 1947. One could imagine that if schools don't close on a day like THIS, they NEVER close.

5:15pm: Get home. Almost. I live on a small dead end street. We're lucky to get plowed at all, let alone on a day when they're doing side streets around 8pm. I gunned it, and got stuck at the bottom of my driveway.

6:15pm: An hour of shovelling has led to progress. But despite appearances, the car is stuck. I try clearing more snow. No. Scraping snow out from underneath. No. Some sand equivalent under the wheels. No use. I have to get my wife (who is sick) to come out and help.

Still nuts.

6:30pm: With the help of a neighbour, rocking the car back and forth a bit, able to get it up my driveway and into the garage. Now I need to clear snow from the front stoop, etc.

7:00pm: I'm home. (After accomplishing a three point turn in my driveway, heyo!) I remember I haven't had anything to drink since before 8am, and have some water. About the only good thing about this day is that my step counter, at about 5000 steps when I left school, is now at 11,222 steps.


Whew, almost lost out on an instructional day there! After all, we're legally required to have 184 of them, with no flex due to weather -- that was a close one. Non-sequitur, I need to remember to put the recycling out tomorrow.

So yeah, snow days are a myth. If you don't believe that, I guess you believe in palm trees too.


  1. That is crazy! I feel totally ripped off every year we don't get a snow day. This year nothing yet. Boo! I will say that we have more cold days than actual snow days. I live in WI.

    1. Oh good, not just me? I wish you best of luck with your hopes - I suppose I should grant the existence of SOME area between the palm trees and me, where snow days actually mean teachers stay home!

      Random aside for anyone reading this far: Today the busses didn't run again, as sidewalks weren't plowed along with many side streets. So my Wednesday was a carbon copy of the above, in as much as I had 8, 6, and then 4 students - though not all the same ones as before! (And I taught stuff. But I sang in every period too.)