School Closing Daze

There's nothing funny about a school closing announcement, but the memory of an early radio announcement makes me shake my head.

These days, all area school systems are looking carefully at how severe a weather day is on tap, and weighing if they should delay or call off schools, day by day.

As a child, I never gave it a second thought how this decision was made, nor communicated to the media.  I just know I was delighted when my mom would let us sleep in, or hearing the announcement of closure over the radio in our small town.

But these days, instead of calling up a media outlet, we get the information via the Internet.  No more delays, no phone calls, no confusion.  Each school makes their own decision. And the information is there at your fingertips.  Ah, modern technology.

But twenty years ago, when I came to the area, I worked my first winter storm at a local radio station.  At that time, we still got phone calls from school officials, who were entrusted with a "code word" to verify that they had the authority to make the decision.

This was the way it had been done for dozens of years, but it was the first time I had run into the system there.

I laugh now but it was a disaster at the time, as I took the phone calls and reported live on the radio.... "The Local school system is closed, code whiteout."  Proudly, I continued... "The Vinton school system is closed today, code word "Santa". (Not the actual systems nor code words.)

The phones started ringing like crazy and I was informed that I had just given away the secret codes.  It took about ten seconds for me to comprehend what had happened.  The caller had rattled off their announcement, and the code word as if they were part of the same announcement.  It had never dawned on me that they were mentioning the code word for my benefit, and that I shouldn't repeat it.  After all, some schools have special designations for "Plan A, Plan B, Plan Snowplow, Plan Iceskate," etc)

Of course, the announcements were all valid, but in the next 24 hours, we had to call each of the school systems to secure a new code word.  Boy, was my face red.  I avoided any contact with schools for the next week, in the hopes they would forget.

Some people let it slide, but I'll never forget.  Every time there's a school closure, we get a  phone call from a few of the other outlying systems, who can't recall how to access the new technology...and the story comes rushing back to me.

Sometimes, technology IS our friend.  It's so much easier now.

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