No school today in Washington? We can relate
A lot of parents of young children can relate to our new president.
After a little snow, followed by melting temperatures, sleet and freezing, the Washington area schools were shut down Wednesday.
"My children's school was canceled today because of what, some ice?" Obama asked a group of reporters and business leaders.
"As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled. In fact, my 7-year-old (Sasha) pointed out that you'd go outside for recess in weather like this ... You wouldn't even stay indoors. So it's -- I don't know. We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town."
The Chicago Public Schools confirmed that the system has not shut down since Jan. 4-5, 1999, when a storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the city, and the Obama girls' old school has closed only once in the last 30 years because of winter weather.
"I'm saying," the president replied carefully, "when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don't seem to be able to handle things."
It's easy for folks in cold-weather climates to look down their noses at those unaccustomed to ice and snow, but it isn't that simple.
School administrators naturally don't take dismissing school lightly, but they also have to keep safety in the forefront of their decision-making process.
Yes, a little snow and ice is nothing to a Chicagoan, but they're sharing the road with millions of other residents who are used to the weather, not drivers who are likely to slide into the ditch at the first encounter with a slippery spot.
They're not forced to travel 10, 20 or 50 miles over lonely, drifting highways in the dark, as are some Southwest Nebraskans; nor are they forced to negotiate some of the slipperiest mud in existence, as are other residents of the Golden Plains.
With more and more families with two working parents, childcare on a day school is called off is another issue to be considered.
Decision-makers in recently consolidated schools in our area have to take all that into account early in the morning, with little information, before determining whether to open the doors late or to open them at all.
Yes, we all remember walking through six-foot snowdrifts, three miles to school, uphill both ways when we were children, but it's hard for those of us who park our cars next to paved city streets to relate to those who live at the far end of a country road.
When it comes to calling off schools, safety has to be the first consideration.