The scene on Hoyt Street this morning. 
The scene on Hoyt Street this morning. 

Buffalo Schools Defy Logic and Stay Open

by / Feb. 2, 2015 9am EST

It should be a universally recognized unofficial rule in a city with about 100 years of experience to learn from: when there’s a foot or more of fresh snow on the ground, you need to cancel schools.

I live on the West Side, a block from International School #45 and two blocks from Lafayette High School. My street around 8 am every weekday morning is a major conduit for walkers for both schools and for the buses coming in to School #45. This morning, a fraction of the usual crowd passed bravely by. One father carrying his son and trailed by two other kids lamented as I shoveled: “They shoulda closed the schools, man!”

Indeed. Just beyond him, a school bus had jack-knifed, effectively closing the street from any school bus service to School #45. Several teachers were also on the street making their way into the buildings after parking further away from the school than usual.

At that moment, I got a robo-call and email from the Buffalo Public Schools. A last-ditch face-saving word of advice:

Parents and Guardians, Please be aware the Buffalo Public Schools are open today. However there may be transportation delays. We ask for your patience. The district makes every possible effort to keep schools open as long as busses can run. The decision to keep your child home is based on your discretion and your own circumstances.  Please note after school activities have been canceled for today. Continue to check the website for details.

This is as close to a mea culpa as we’ll probably get, an attempt to indemnify itself against the storm of criticism to come from the parents of children who will wait an hour or more on their corners in 12 degree weather in a still-driving snow. Otherwise, a district that faces such staggering absenteeism rates would never offer such language to parents. Canceling after-school activities but keeping school open? What sense does that make? 

It’s understandable that after the November storm the district needs to be judicious with its canceled days of instruction, but this is patently absurd. We all knew this storm was coming since at least Saturday. It should have caught no one by surprise. Family members of mine who work in the school system are telling me that buildings are nearly empty, buses have not yet arrived and when they do there are scant few kids on board, and that buildings are understaffed as teachers across the area are struggling to get out of their driveways and around obstacles on the roadways. 

I merely hope that all the children and parents attempting to go to school today make it in safely. And here’s hoping that everyone makes it safely back to the homes they never should have been expected to leave.