Hot cocoa? Check. Makeshift sledding and pint-sized snowmen? Check.
But it’s not a snow day in Charlotte without one more tradition: Taking to social media to debate the wisdom and timing of school closings.
After toughing it out on a regular schedule during the recent hard freeze, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools made the call Tuesday night to close school Wednesday. Most of the people weighing in on the CMS Facebook page thought that was wise, even though snow was light at the time morning buses would have rolled. As the sun rose, flakes were falling hard and forecasters were calling for 3 inches or more to pile up.
“Still the right call, even if not a flake falls,” Scott Lane posted Tuesday night. “Better safe than sorry, giving parents at least some time to plan. ... Or even worse, have people on the road in bad conditions. A single patch of ice ... can send a car with an inexperienced high school driver into a pole, or a bus full of kids into a pole.”
Meanwhile, surrounding districts that resorted to closings and delays because of frigid temperatures held off on Wednesday’s decision – and often got flamed for that. Union County Public Schools, for instance, announced a two-hour delay Tuesday, then changed that to cancellation early Wednesday morning.
“When I get in a car crash because of the roads tomorrow I hope you are prepared for a law suit,” one person tweeted.
“Worst county in the nation by far every one at your offices is dumb,” said another.
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan took to Twitter to urge civility. “Being disrespectful on social media is not the #TeamUCPS way,” he said.
Gaston County and Iredell-Statesville schools also started with delays and switched to closure early Wednesday morning.
The challenges are obvious, especially in a district like CMS that runs 1,100 buses and has about 19,000 employees. If you summon your staff and get kids on the road, only to be surprised by dangerous conditions, you’ve made the wrong call. But closings disrupt family life and academic schedules – CMS high schools are in the midst of final exams – which means district leaders face criticism if they react too quickly or cautiously. And in a county that sprawls from Lake Norman to Lake Wylie, winter weather often brings dangerous snow and ice in some places while others remain relatively clear.
“Before everyone starts complaining, remember not everyone lives on main roads,” Crystal Miller wrote in a CMS Facebook comment that was liked more than 100 times. “Some people have to leave and go to work before their kids get picked up and have to worry about them getting to school. Teachers have to be able to get to school in order for it to run smoothly. There are a lot of reasons why this is a good decision.”
CMS uses social media to keep students and families engaged on snow days, with hourly quizzes posted under the #CMSsnowEd hashtag.
But for some, just hanging out at the virtual water cooler is entertainment enough.
“Hold on pause the comments please,” Dominick Cidoni posted on the CMS Facebook page. “My popcorn is almost done.”