Thursday, January 07, 2010

A little bit of snow

Americans who live in the snow belt always laugh when the UK grinds to a halt because of an inch or so of snow. I was ready to do the same thing this week, but then I saw this satellite photo of the UK today:

There are a few places where you can still see green - part of Anglesey, and on the south coast in Devon - but not many! I grew up on the Wirral and we rarely if ever got any snow there, though we could often see it on the Welsh hills. It looks just as white as the rest of the UK today! I have no doubt that they really don't have enough ploughs, sanders and gritters to deal with this, even it is only a few inches.

My old secondary school is closed and will not open again until next Monday at the earliest. I don't EVER remember school being closed for bad weather when I was a kid, though my primary school closed once for a day because the boiler broke and there was no heat. I was intrigued to see this on the high school website though:

It looks as though they are trying to avoid the issue of having to make up the snow days by asking kids to login from home and complete work that's been assigned. (VLE = Virtual Learning Environment) I've never seen that done over here. Boy, I wish we could have done that last year when we had 9 snow days and ended up losing 3 days from our April vacation so that we could still complete 180 days of school as required by the end of June. (State schools in the UK have to put in 190 days I believe.) We have a VLE (Moodle) in my district, but relatively few teachers use it, and some of the towns in the district still only have dial-up internet access so it's not practical to require kids to use it anyway!

Only a few miles away from my hometown, the independent school my father used to work at also closed yesterday and today (in common with all Wirral, North Wales, Wrexham schools and most Cheshire schools) but will be open tomorrow:

The school will be open for all pupils on Friday 8 January.

Notes for parents
The car parks will still be very icy and potentially hazardous, especially after an overnight frost, so extreme care will be needed; please do not stay on site any longer than it takes to drop your children off. Staff will be on hand in the car parks to assist. For safety reasons and because of extremely limited parking, we are not allowing sixth formers to drive to school.

Buses should be running as normal tomorrow, though buses will not be driving through the villages and so will drop pupils off on the way home on the main roads at the points where they were picked up in the morning.

I guess it's a good thing schools all seem to have websites nowadays to make these announcements! Here in New England, snow days and delayed starts because of bad weather are so common that most schools districts now have automated calling systems in addition to posting cancellations and delays on local radio and TV. I remember once driving most of my 60+ mile commute to work before hearing on the radio that school was cancelled for the day. At that point we didn't have an automatic calling system, and where I lived I couldn't get the TV or radio stations that the school posted its cancellations on. Where I lived the weather was fine so I set out for work! After that, I learned to log on to the school email system or website every morning in the winter just in case!


iwi said...

Our two's school is re-opened this morning after 2 days closure due to "Health and Safety issues". Although the children could get in, many of the teachers live out of the area and couldn't get in so they would have been under-staffed.

We have to provide packed lunches in case the off-site caterers are unable to deliver the hot meals though. Just what they want on the coldest day of the year so far - a cold picnic lunch ;-)

Mel and Angus said...

Earlier this week, 24 schools were canceled in the Aberdeen area. I never did hear if it got higher than that (since I don't have children in school.) It is quite amusing to see how life grounds to a halt for just a few inches of snow over here. However, that is not the case south of here or north of here. They got belted with snow. To me, this snow storm is just a typical Utah snow storm. The entire 20 years I lived in Utah, school was never canceled for snow even though we could get up to a foot of snow over night.

Michelloui said...

As a native Minnesotan I find it really interesting to see how people deal with snow, who are not used to a normal routine of snow. (I am not condescending or scathing about the British--after all, I live her and I can see for myself that it would be crazy to prepare like Minnesotans do for winter!) The school closures are interesting (and Twitter has been completely heaving with the amount of speculation and complaint about no-school-days)--and parents reactions have been interesting. One who lives miles away on back roads still brought her child in, another who lives very near the school didnt.

I agree with you--I am very grateful for the internet in situations like these!!

Interesting image! Ive heard people talking about this but havent actually seen it yet.

Maureen said...

I'm also from Minnesota and living in England. I smile when people get excited about a small dusting of snow but after living here for nearly 23 years, I also realize that snow is a rare occurence in the London area so their reaction is understandable.

This winter has been incredible. I've never seen it snow this much before around here (I live in a small town just north of London). And it's not just all the snow, it's the extreme cold temps as well that are so unusual. We are getting the cold air from Siberia and it is definititely cold!

As far as schools closing, I think the headteachers who have to make that decision can't win. If they choose to keep their school open when it's icy and difficult for staff to drive in and for children to walk safely, they will hear complaints. But if they decide it's safer to close the school, they will hear complaints too - mostly from working parents who suddenly find they have to stay home if their children aren't at school.

What I can't understand is why the roads aren't gritted (sanded) and salted more often in bad weather. Plowing isn't an option for all roads in Britain since so many roads are very very small and cluttered with cars all the time.

It is a spectacular photo! I think it made people around the world realize just how badly the UK has been hit with the latest snowstorms.

If I Could Escape . . . said...

Amazing satellite photograph!

I remember we would get snow, but it wouldn't lay for that long so school was NEVER cancelled. A few times my hometown was snowed in though.

ADDY said...

It is strange to think that the whole country is swathed in snow, but it is - apparently the worst snowfall in 50 years if not 100 according to some reports. VLEs seem quite common these days.

Almost American said...

iwi - my kids have a cold lunch at school every day, except 'field day' when they beg to be allowed to have a hotdog (yuck!) like all of their friends!) They occasionally complain, but mostly they seem happy with being able to help choose what goes in their lunch boxes.

Maureen - I agree the schools can't win! I do wonder whether they will make the schools stay open for extra days at the end of the year to make up the missed time. Not that that helps the kids who need the time now to prepare for exams, and even with 3 days missed they will still have more days in session (187) than the schools over here are required to do (180).

I suppose if winters like this continue, Britain will have to find a way to deal with it.

angelsandurchinsblog said...

We're just not used to it in the UK any more. My mother, in Devon, has been loving all the drama, and was secretly hoping someone would skid into a ditch in her village so she could put them up for the night/week! It's been a bit dreary in my bit of London though. Just enough snow to be slippy, but not really enough for schools to shut. But apparently it's coming back - must ask school about a 'moogle' (is that how it's spelt? fascinating!)

Almost American said...

Angelsandurchins - thanks for your comment. Moodle is a free VLE - just needs someone techy to set it up. I think some schools are already committed by their county to other software for their VLE.

I once worked at a boarding school here in New England where in a big blizzard in the 70's they ended up rescuing people from cars and putting them up overnight.

Michelloui said...

Ive linked to you in a post on google search terms--the idea came from you. Hope you dont mind the mention...!

Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

9 snow days? whoa.

I lived in Westchester County, just outside of NYC, and we had lots of snow, yes, but no more than in Switzerland I think. Yet there we had up to 4 snow days in a year, and here? No snow days to be heard of. The Swiss are hard-core.

Almost American said...

9 snow days was exceptional last year. We had a truly amazing ice storm in 2008 that brought some areas of the school district to a complete halt for several days. It took one friend, who admittedly has a relatively long driveway, over 2 days working with a chainsaw to get his driveway clear enough of downed trees to be able to get his car out to the roadway. This video gives an idea of how unusual it was.

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