In Economics, we often talk about “upper bounds” or “lower bounds.” For example, the highest amount we are willing to pay for a product might be seen as an “upper bound”, while the minimum wage we are willing to accept in order to join the paid labor force, our “reservation wage”, might be seen as a “lower bound.” I found myself thinking of this over the past week, as my daughter was once again home from school for snow days. It seems that some wise people in the State Capital had set an upper bound of five snow days per year for our children. Obviously, they did not anticipate the brutal weather we have experienced this school year.
The start of the spring semester is never smooth. In higher education, it usually begins on a day in the middle of the week, and then there is always the day off near the beginning for the celebration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. However, this year has been especially difficult as the weather has caused school cancellations for school children throughout our state, including my daughter. Just as it seemed that students were getting back into a routine after the long break in December, horrible weather hit, leading to three snow days before our college classes even began, one caused by busses that would not start in the extreme cold of a “polar vortex” that was covering much of the country. In a few days, the schools re-opened, and the students seemed to settle down for the end of the quarter. However, as soon as report cards came out last week, the cold returned with a vengeance and school was again cancelled. First there was one snow day, then two snow days, until there was eventually a total of seven snow days since the start of this calendar year. Luckily, there were no snow days in the 2013 part of this school year, but a total of seven was certainly greater than the proposed upper bound of five “calamity days” per school year allotted by the board of education. This could be a real problem, and so, with spring break in danger, the schools began to address the issue.
Our principal left messages about the days off on our phones. Indeed, she left messages on ALL of our phones- from home phones to work phones to cell phones. In her message she assured us that closing school was necessary for the safety of our children, and told us to stay safe and warm. Of course, we heard this as we were scurrying to find a safe place for our children to spend the day, and such sympathy did not help. We also learned that our children could do school work at home on snow days, progressing in their lessons so that such days were not counted against us. Ah, the benefits of modern technology!
I printed out my daughter’s work, and gave it to her when she got home. However, I was surprised to learn that some of the work had not yet been covered in actual classes. And so I became the default teacher, helping her to master work that had not yet been presented to her by teachers who know how to teach this material. I fumbled along, thankful that I know a little something about math and science, and wondering what parents who did not have such skills were doing at that moment. As I did this, I heard of some proposals by the State of Ohio to increase the number of days allotted as snow days. At that moment, I strongly supported the proposal.
As the week wore on, the snow days finally ended. The students are back to school now, and the busses are running. However, I am curious as to how states in other parts of the country that may or may not be in the “snow belt” handle “snow days.” Have you met your upper bound on the number of days allotted, and what do you do when you do meet that limit?