In the wake of a snowstorm that hit the province on Wednesday, and with a winter storm warning in effect for Nova Scotia on Friday, Halifax students could see two snow days in the same week.
School was cancelled due to weather on Wednesday for students in every K-12 public school across the Halifax Regional Municipality – inspiring mixed emotions from Nova Scotians.
While K-12 schools were cancelled throughout the HRM, the adults didn’t exactly share a child’s excitement for snow days.
— Anya Katrina (@AnyaZub) February 8, 2017
Parker Donham, a former journalist and public figure in Nova Scotia who divides his time between the mainland and Cape Breton, has a scathing assessment of the concept of snow days and how School Boards in Nova Scotia decide when they will happen.
“It’s classic, poor, incompetent risk management,” said Donham over the phone. He said “nervous Nellies” on school boards may fear an accident from kids going to school in the midst of inclement weather, but “there has been no review of unsupervised kids and the risks of going to the ski hill.”
Donham said that frequent snow days in Nova Scotia teach students the wrong lesson.
“If things get a little difficult or inconvenient, the best option is to give up,” he said. “They don’t feel they have to live up to their responsibilities.”
The Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) has only had 3.5 snow days this school year said Doug Hadley, coordinator of communications services for the school board.
“Typically, schools in the HRSB are closed far fewer times per year than schools in other school districts around Nova Scotia,” said Hadley.
Hadley said that snow days are slightly ahead of average up to this date as compared to other years. There were three last year and the year before, and two in 2013-14.
As for the maximum number of snow days the school board can have, there is not a concrete number.
“Each decision is made independent of prior decisions,” said Hadley.
The decision process over whether to have a snow day starts at 4:30 a.m., when the school board gets information from several groups, including Stock Transportation; their staff; local weather services such as Environment Canada; their own meteorologist and AMEC, a weather consulting service. At 5:30 a.m., school board staff make a recommendation to the superintendent, who makes the final decision.
The decision is finally made at 6 a.m. If the weather gets worse as the day goes on, the school board informs all schools that they will let their students out at 11 a.m.
Wednesday’s storm has had unexpected consequences. The Nova Scotia Teachers Union’s vote on the tentative agreement with the Nova Scotia government was delayed until Thursday.
— Natasha Pace (@NatashaPace) February 8, 2017
Angela Khan, a parent, said she would like to see the board try a different approach, explaining that one some days, freezing rain starts around the morning rush hour when parents are trying to get their kids to school.
“For those days, a better call would be to delay the start of school, for an hour say, start school at 10 instead of 9,” she said.
The Signal asked on Twitter for opinions on the snow day in Halifax, and got this tweet in response:
— Bill Banks (@bbanks1063) February 8, 2017