by Theo Lebryk
By now everyone has taken part in or read about “the legend of 1/06/15,” as one tweet named it. While all the salt online slowly gets buried deep in Twitter feeds, what lessons should we take away from the snow day debacle?
First, the people responsible for the decision need to take a trip to one of the school system’s elementary schools to reteach themselves how to properly apologize.
In a good apology, the apologetic party looks the other person in the eye. The people responsible for the decision failed to do so in their first two apologies, instead choosing to take the internet’s convenient back door of anonymity.
By signing their apology letters “Fairfax County Public Schools,” the impression was given that this was a unilateral decision made by the organization. Students and school faculty make up the majority of FCPS, but needless to say most of them strongly disapproved of the decision. It’s almost as if the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed its apology for the healthcare.gov problems “love, the United States Government.”
While the apology was doomed from the start by refusing to personally accept responsibility, the content also screamed “NOT MY FAULT.” The initial letter started with, “We apologize for the difficulties the weather caused this morning.”
In case FCPS was wondering, the hashtag that trended worldwide wasn’t #stopsnow2015. As your typical elementary school teacher would tell you, you can only control your behavior. People weren’t up in arms about the weather because no one can control it; it was the failure to make the right decision that irked people.
It seems someone realized as much and a second apology was issued later in the day. While definitely an improvement over the first one (this one acknowledged that the decision was wrong), it still lacked signature.
The apology ends with “We are closely monitoring the weather conditions and will make a decision with regard to schools opening tomorrow and will let families know, through our normal communication processes, as soon as possible,” which brings up the next issue with FCPS’s snow policy.
Not only can it not apologize, FCPS FCPS inconveniences everybody by not announcing when school opens on time.
By not announcing changes, students and employees are left waiting in flux as opposed to having a definitive answer. FCPS’ video about inclimate weather says that while the school system will try to make an announcement about closing or delaying school by 5:00 a.m., this isn’t always possible.
Thus, students and faculty are left refreshing Ryan McElveen’s Twitter up until the last second possible. While at times entertaining, spamming McElveen’s twitter perhaps isn’t the most productive use of everyone’s morning.
Clear communication is key to any organization. If the people in charge of emergency announcements were to just post that school is on as scheduled when the weather is in question, it would save a lot of people a lot of time and anxiety.
Lastly, with all that said, 12 free snow days is still far too many. According to one school board presentation about the change, there has been on average 3.9 snow days per year over the last 30 years.
What this leads to is unnecessarily cancellations for things like “cold days.” Thus far this year, we’ve had five snow days, four of which there were called under minimal snow. Instead of giving gift days and still having a bunch of snow days left over at the end of the year, FCPS should just shorten the school year and get everyone out of school earlier.
Jan. 6 wasn’t a good day for FCPS. Hopefully FCPS can learn from this fiasco and figure out fix all of the kinks with its emergency weather protocol.
Photo by Theo Lebryk