More than a few eyebrows were raised — and some people were downright angry — when some Twin City schools opted to stay open when the mercury dipped well below zero degrees last week.
But before you criticize, consider this: Students whose schools were closed may have spent the day visiting a public library, eating at a fast-food restaurant, hitting the mall or a bowling alley or visiting a friend's house.
Was going to those destinations any less dangerous than riding a school bus on an admittedly bitterly cold and blustery day?
Did those students also skip their after-school jobs, a doctor's appointment, even a scheduled haircut?
As District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly and ISU Lab School Superintendent Jeff Hill said, the reasons for their schools remaining open are more clear-cut when districts are smaller, in-town or have a majority of students who are driven to school by parents, rather than the students taking the bus.
But complaints from parents likely play a role in whether districts decide to close schools when there's a possibility of bad weather.
Many commenters joke about walking to school uphill, both ways, in the snow, barefoot, but there's a tinge of truth in those tall tales. Granted, times have changed — we aren't suggesting a return to one-room schools — but schools and the public need to use common sense when they make (or criticize) decisions on how much the cold, snow or heat should play a role in whether schools are open.
Many area school districts cover a lot of square miles and weather and road conditions can vary greatly within those regions. Stanford-based Olympia, for instance, encompasses 377 square miles (it's the largest in the state). Even Hartsburg-Emden, with its small enrollment, covers 72 square miles. By comparison, the town of Normal is 37 square miles and District 87 is just 10 square miles.
It's easy to forget one winter storm from another, leading many of us to worry about a couple inches of snow or frigid wind — witness the mad dashes to grocery stores for bread and milk, road salt and shovels when word arrives that a storm is coming.
In the end, parents and school officials need to make sure they are not sheltering children from the realities of adult life. And that includes having to go to work when you don't want to, doing what your boss tells you to do, and limiting your vacation to a couple weeks a year.
Winter is cold, sometimes very, very cold. Life can be hard. Adults rarely get a snow day.
Maybe we all should get used to that.