Posted by: Alex Borders | February 26, 2010

The Art and Science of Calling a Snow Day

Friday 26th February

The Waldorf School of Philadelphia will be closed today, Friday 26th February due to the snowy and windy weather conditions.

The Art and Science of Calling a Snow Day

Posted by Erin Şemin, WSP Faculty Chairperson

It is 5:04 am and I am sitting to write this in my bathrobe with a fresh cup of coffee at hand and the wind howling outside.  I have been up now for almost an hour, watching news, weather updates and checking the web sites of the weather service, city office of emergency management, public schools and several other independent schools. Though the coffee and quiet house are idyllic, I still feel frustrated  for no one knows what impact the storm has had on our families, on our commutes to school, whether or not we still have (and will continue to have) power to the school building itself. These are the factors on which I would like to base the decision to cancel school.

  • Are the children and parents going to be safe traveling back and forth?
  • Can we give them a warm, well lit and protected environment to learn in once they arrive?
  • Is it safe for them to use the playgrounds and fields and travel back and forth to the dance  studio for Games and Eurythmy classes?
  • Will faculty and staff get to and from work safely?

It is very hard to discern these answers from a weather report or web update- that is why calling a snow day is both an art and a science. Because one has to choose a point in time and answer as many of those questions as possible based on the information at hand- hoping that the predictions hold good and we don’t all sit home wondering why our children are running around the house, again, when they could be at school!

It is the policy at our school that the Faculty Chairperson, in communication and agreement with the Administrator make decisions about school cancellations related to weather and other factors.

It has also been our policy to follow the lead of the  Philadelphia school district- when they close for the day.  This policy is based on the knowledge that they have a wider view of conditions across the city-traffic, public safety and infrastructure.  If they deem it unwise to have buses and private citizens hit the streets to get to school then we have always followed suit.

One would think, then, that the decision this morning and on previous mornings should have been easy. This is not the case.  I am well aware of the joy of the children when they hear those magical words- “SNOW DAY.”  I am also aware of what this can mean for parents; missed work, missed income, tasks and errands postponed or interrupted, bored or impatient children needing more input than usual.  From the teacher’s perspective work and lessons, often planned months in advance, needing to be postponed, condensed or even missed out on because the schedule is simply too tight to cram everything into the time there is left.  We are a school where most learning relies on experience; hearing a story, drawing the geometric forms, sculpting, moving, painting, writing.  These experiences  underlie the work in the lesson books and if we are not together to have them, it cannot simply be relegated to homework or make-up work.  It is not a joyful thing for us to say “We will give up that time with the children.”

It has been a wacky winter!  We have had, to date, more snow days than I have know in my nearly nine years at the school.  I am grateful for the patience and goodwill of all of our families as we embark on yet another snow day.  I hope that all will be safe and sound an that soon we can commence our normal schedules again with no further interruptions from Mother Nature.


Erin Şemin

Faculty Chairperson


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