Is it really worth risking my life for four classes? For homework that I’d procrastinate on anyway? Would I not be more fulfilled by risking my life to go skiing instead? These are the questions I asked myself as, riddled with an all-consuming fear, I drove to school on the 29th of November. Sliding left and right on the icy roads, I pondered, reflecting on the thing that might save me from an icy death: the coveted snow day. Why hadn’t the school called a snow day? The treacherous condition of the roads certainly warranted one. Omar Alsolaiman describes a similar experience, when, driving to school last year, he lost traction on the snowy roads and almost hit a truck: “it was very scary,” he says. As much as Omar and I so longingly craved a snow day, none were called. The decision, at the time, seemed so simple, but after doing some digging, I found that the process behind calling a snow day is quite extensive.
“A lot goes into it [calling a snow day],” says Mick Gee, the head of school at Rowland Hall. If it’s predicted to snow, Mr. Gee will wake up at 4:30 AM, a difficult task for anyone. Mr. Gee has an expansive network of people around the valley, which enables him to track the snow conditions in various parts of Utah. Mr. Gee is also in contact with other private schools, like McGillis and Waterford, that have similar processes. Part of the nuance behind calling a snow day is the fact that, in Utah, snowfall is so varied, meaning that an inch in the valley could mean six in Park City. From the time he wakes up, Mr. Gee monitors the radio, television, and traffic reports, which he uses to help inform his decision. When conditions necessitate thinking about calling a snow day, the first order of business, according to Mr. Gee, is whether or not to send the buses up to Park City, since the buses usually leave at 6 AM, two hours before school starts. This means that Mr. Gee has until 5:30 AM to make his final decision. If he calls a snow day, parents that live in areas that get significantly more snow, like, for example, Park City, might feel relieved, knowing that they don’t have to endanger themselves or their children in order to get to school. On the other hand, if Mr. Gee decides to cater to those in Park City, parents in Salt Lake, who rely on their kids being in school, might be frustrated with the call. This variety, according to Mr. Gee, is what makes the decision so difficult.
Once the decision is made, consequences abound. Mr. Gee notes that part of the issue is that “we’re a pre-k through 12th school,” which means that, on the one hand, the school has to consider teenage drivers, who are particularly susceptible to danger when driving on snowy roads, and, on the other hand, the parents of kids in the lower school who rely on their kids being taken care of. Oftentimes, if the kid isn’t in school, the parent can’t work, which means cancellation of obligations and a backlog of work, which has numerous consequences. “The school performs an essential service,” says Mr. Gee. Mr. Gee states that, in the end, the decision to send a child to school in the snow should be mostly up to the discretion of the parents, which Mr. Gee respects. Additionally, Mr. Gee notes that upper school students often feel pressured to go to school even when the roads are dangerous. If you need any consolation, Mr. Gee assures me that, when conditions permit, you “can miss a day of school.” So, if the roads look sketchy and you’re feeling pressured to drive, as Omar and I were, maybe rethink your decision – your safety comes first.
In conclusion, calling a snow day is a complex and nuanced undertaking for the admin. The school provides an essential service for families, so calling a snow day has far-reaching effects. The decision, ultimately, is in the hands of you and your parents. A couple of weeks later, on roads of equally dangerous conditions, I drove to school, repeating the same questions that I originally asked myself. Informed by my conversation with Mick Gee, though, I turned around and went home, remembering that the call is, ultimately, at the discretion of me and my parents.