Canadian School Closure Policies due to Weather Conditions
=== by Bob Sutherland ===
This is an explanation of when Canadian school principals or school board officials are likely to close schools due to weather conditions.
Northern Canadian Schools
In Canada's remote northern communities the school principal will probably close the school on days when the temperature drops to -40 degrees Celsius or the wind chill drops to -40. The school principal may consider closing the school for the younger students in the elementary grades when the temperature drops to -35 degrees Celsius or the wind chill drops to -35. The school principal typically makes the decision to close the school early in the morning as the rest of the community is just starting to wake up. Here are some options the school principal may consider:
- Closing the school for the early morning and reopening at 10 a.m. if the temperature is expected to warm up by then.
- Closing the school for the full morning and reopening for the afternoon at 1 p.m. if the temperature is expected to warm up.
- Closing the school for the full day.
- Closing the school for the elementary grades, but requiring the high school students and staff to attend school.
- Closing the school for some elementary grades, but requiring all students above the chosen grade and staff to attend school.
- Closing the school for all students but requiring the staff to attend school. (A excellent way to start a mutiny among staff! They will spend the time holding secret meetings all over the building as they plan your demise!)
- Closing the school for everyone.
- Keeping the school open but announcing that student attendance is optional based on parent's discretion.
"Parent's discretion" means that the school principal is refusing to make the decision to close the school. In this situation responsibility then falls on the parents to decide if it is safe to send their children and teenagers to school in the cold weather. This usually happens when the temperature or wind chill equivalent is expected to be in or near the range of -35 to -40 degrees Celsius.
After closing the school or publicly announcing that student attendance is at the parent's discretion the school principal will instruct the school staff that they should mark a "W" for cold weather day on their student attendance registers. The school staff will then be told that they should not include the cold weather day when determining which students qualify for perfect (or near perfect) attendance awards.
In some schools the attendance awards are the most cherished awards given out by the school. Both the parents and their children consider themselves to be the winners of the attendance awards since the parents managed to get their children to school everyday.
A school principal with many years of experience always seems to remember that one time when he or she decided to close the school very early one morning and then later that day the school yard was full of children playing outside. When this happens often the children will start banging on the school doors and windows because they are cold and want to come inside to warm up, to use the toilet, or to get a drink of water. The school principal will not get much quiet time to do paperwork in the school office if children are banging on the school doors and windows.
Aboriginal Communities in Northern Canada
If the school principal closes the school for students because of cold weather but requires the school staff to attend then many school staff members may bring their own children, the neighbour's children, their relative's children and a few other children with them to school.
Please understand that included among the school staff members are often some of the most respected and responsible parents, grandparents and babysitters in the small northern community. These teachers, teacher aides, librarians, secretaries and other staff members often help look after nearly as many children outside of school hours as they do during the school day. With the school officially closed there may be a lot of children playing in the building as the staff members attempt to supervise them while trying to stay warm and do some school work.
If the school principal insists on the school staff leaving all of the children at home while the school is closed then the school principal should expect that many of the local staff members will stay home as well to look after the children. The school principal is best advised not to complain as job applications being received by the community from prospective school principals are a dime a dozen while school staff members may be hard to replace.
In many aboriginal communities whenever the school principal announces that the school is closed everyone in the community takes a holiday. The school is usually the largest employer in a small northern community so it sets the work pattern for the community. While the students are attending school the adults tend to find work to do as housewives, artists, hunters, cutting firewood, or they may actually have a paying job. When the school closes many of the adults will stop working. To understand this phenomenon it is necessary for you to realize that in many northern Canadian aboriginal communities the preschool and school aged children vastly outnumber the adults. When the students are not attending class the adults have to stop working at their other jobs so that they can help look after all of the children.