My husband was scheduled for a life-important spinal cord operation the morning the ice storm hit Portland last week. Our street is nearly impassible on a good day, let alone in an ice storm so we anticipated and scheduled a friend to take us across town at 4:30am in his “tank.” We worried the hospital would cancel the operation due to the inability to get physicians, nurses and staff there in this weather. They did not. It went as planned. Then the BIG snow hit and the city was paralyzed… except that every hospital employee who was required to work did so. From physicians to janitors. How did they do it?! They send a driver for employees who can’t drive or bus. Employees back each other up by finding a colleague who might be able to transport them, at least close to their homes, if need be. But more important, WHY do they do it? They do it because they understand that medical care is CRITICAL. So, they anticipate, have a plan, and they know that what they do is important. I was so thankful for that.
I had lots of time to sit and think by his bedside all week or on the myriad of buses and trains I used to get to him each day. As I sat there, I watched as the schools closed day after day after day. Often announced only hours before the day would have begun. The contrast was startling. It wreaked havoc with families and businesses. The changes in the school calendars are still in flux as the school boards battle to eke out just the number of required hours. You couldn’t imagine our health care system doing the same, could you?
I began to ask myself “what if?..” What if schools had anticipated days of weather problems and had a plan to assign work that could be done at home? What if the automated messaging already in place, now included “today’s assignment?” And most important, what if WE thought education was just as crucial to our lives as our health? It is. There is study after study showing the importance of high quality education to everything from life success to health. There was one public school district that did not close but assigned work for home. The kids likely took some breaks to make snow people and sled but their education continued.
I can hear the “yes, buts…” Equity, who has a computer, someone still needs to watch the kids… So keep in mind: It isn’t equitable now, someone has to watch the kids now, and students aren’t being adequately challenged or educated now. Less is not more. Haphazard is also not more. I KNOW our teachers have plans they’d love to enact and maybe snow days add great teachable moments in creativity and problem solving. Would it take some work to make a plan and make it equitable for all families? Absolutely. But the first and most important step is that WE consider education to be important – from there, great education, snow, rain or shine, no matter what, will happen. I volunteer to help our schools figure out a plan – it’s that important. Join me!