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DeAnn M. Pladson, Published January 24 2014

Letter: In school closings, first consider safety of kids

Snow days were a little more interesting in my house growing up. My father, Duane J. Carlson, had the responsibility to make the call to cancel classes for the Fargo Public Schools. My friends would call and see what I could provide for “inside information.” I would receive promises of goods and services if I could influence it in any way. I’d ask my dad every single time, “What are the chances, on a scale of one to 10, that we won’t have school?” and every time he would tell me the same thing: “Five.” He would never let on to what he was thinking about canceling school for the next day.

I never got the advantage of knowing before I went to bed. Rather, I would wake up the next morning to my dad making all of the phone calls to the local media outlets using a secret password (to thwart the posers) that school would be called off.

It was a lot different back then, from the form of communication to the technology to forecast the weather. It seems to me that there are so many factors that go into making this call that I had no concept of as a kid. I thought the whole process was just an opportunity to toy with my emotions.

First, you have to consider the children. As Fargo has grown, we have more and more kids traveling from the fringes of Fargo to get to school. Safety has to be a major concern for these kids and all kids traveling to get to school.

Along with the children, FPS is one of the largest employers in our city, meaning that a decision to have school affects teachers, administrative staff, custodians and the lunch lady. Any of these individuals could have an issue getting into work. If one of those people cannot make it in to work, then how is the school as a whole impacted? And certainly what about their safety in getting into work?

Living in North Dakota means that sometimes weather impacts our lives. Over the years, I have often felt sorry for the school administrator who has to make that call.

You cannot make everyone happy in making a call like this. It is just a lose-lose decision. In this and nearly every instance I say, “they got it right.” Not because I evaluate the roads and weather conditions myself, or I stand on a street corner to experience the feeling of waiting for a bus. I think they get it right because it is a human judgment call, not made to screw people up, or called in from a beach in Mexico without knowing the conditions.

These decisions are made after long consideration for all the factors (yes, factors that may not apply to each individual).

Jeff Schatz is one of the finest superintendents Fargo Public Schools has seen. He is thoughtful, thorough, interested to hear from people, considerate and willing to talk about the decisions he makes. We are lucky to have him. I also know that if I called him to see what the chances are that there would be a snow day, he would give me a five.

Pladson is a Fargo attorney.