It’s snowing! Cancel classes!

When I lived in Bethel, Alaska I worked at a boarding school that served Native Alaskan youth struggling in the public school system. Rural Alaska has 8-month-long winters, sometimes with only a few hours of sunlight per day.

One day in January, with a foot of snow already on the ground, the temperatures dropped to -70 degrees with wind chill. Yes, you read that number correctly: 70 below zero. And yet our principal did not cancel school. I still had to make the 20-minute walk to work (yes, I walked every day).

I don’t say this in a self-congratulatory manner–in fact, with military-issue snow boots and jackets, walking in those temperatures was surprisingly comfortable–but to make a point about why our principal didn’t cancel school.

Bethel has a widespread problem with alcoholism among the Native population, and our principal knew that if she cancelled school some students would be at risk of getting drunk and freezing to death on the tundra. That actually happened to people from time to time.

Fredonia President Ginny Horvath only cancels classes for the most extreme snowstorms. I can tell you why, because I’ve heard her say this to a group of student-athletes:

“In the adult world, when it snows, you still go to work.”

The decision always comes down to what’s best for the student. What’s best for the student is rarely what’s most gratifying in the moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *