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When a Snow Day Might Have Been a Better Option

This week, I want to rant about snow. Well, not about the meteorological aspects, so much as the city's response to it. Starting at 8am yesterday and into the overnight hours, New York City got about 11 inches of snow. However, the snow stopped coming down at some critical time in the wee hours of the morning, which meant that school the following day--today--was not cancelled despite there being almost a foot of powder on the ground.

Obviously, we should cancel school for weather events as infrequently as possible, no matter how much I might like snow days. However, New York City has this problem wherein everything revolves around Manhattan. If Manhattan gets plowed, NYCDOE keeps schools open--despite the fact that, particularly in the outer parts of boroughs like the Bronx, municipal services are more sporadic to say the least. In a city as large as ours, it's a problem that only one borough (the one that's, you know, the major economic center) gets taken into account.

So, that's one of the things I was thinking about this morning, when I was walking the half mile from the subway station to the school building through a foot of unplowed snow. And, I was thinking it even more when not a single one of my tenth grade classes (which cap out at 34 kids each) had more than 10 students in attendance. (They were snowed in, or couldn't get to public transit, or their parents didn't like the idea of the kids braving 9 degree temperatures with a wind chill factor of -4 to go to school this morning.) And, I was ESPECIALLY thinking that when I was trying to figure out if I should give the kids the second part of the final exam, which they were scheduled to take today.

Here was the problem: For the 10 kids who came to class today prepared to take the exam, clearly it wasn't reasonable to hold off; they'd studied, and they were here. However, the other 24 kids have to now take the make-up tomorrow or Friday. That means the probability of cheating is increased, because a whole bunch of students have already seen the exam. Moreover, when two thirds of the class has to make up the test tomorrow, their peers who were here--if they show up again that day--basically have to sit quietly and read or entertain themselves. And that's fine, except that it's a waste of their time to wait while everyone takes an exam they've already taken, as they're quick to point out. (I've devised an extra-credit project to try and address this issue.)

Basically, the next two days are going to be comprised completely of make-up exams, both for this non-snow day that still resulted in everyone being absent, and for any kids who managed to miss components of their two-day exams for other reasons. There would have been more synchronicity if we'd just had the darn snow day, as opposed to this weird middle ground, and less time wasted on make-up tests (and in a better overall attendance average for the school--but that's another issue altogether.)

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The opinions expressed in View From the Bronx: An Urban Teacher's Perspective are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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