So are winters that much worse these days? Or is there something
else going on? NBC Action News dug in to see if today’s kids
are getting out of school easier than the previous generation.
PARENTS JUGGLE TWO FULL-TIME JOBS
On the morning after the blizzard of 2011, Megan Neher tried to
distract her kids with video games while she multi-tasked from her
Zachary, 9, and Natalie, 7, are out of Oak Park-Carpenter
Elementary for yet another snow day. Neher,
who runs her own
public relations business, said juggling conference calls with
making lunch can make for some interesting moments.
“Sometimes, I have to shut myself in the bathroom because
I’m trying to take a call quickly and don’t have time
to say, ‘Shhhhhhh!” said Neher with a laugh.
But Neher said she is lucky because she can actually work from
home. Other parents sometimes have to make the tough choice about
taking a work sick day when the kids stay home from school.
Neher can’t help but wonder if it was the same when she
was a student in the Shawnee Mission District.
“It does feel like snow days are more frequent,” she
said. “We’ll have a couple in a row and then I’ll
think we’re for sure going back on the third or fourth day.
But then they’ll call another day.”
DECISION FROM SUPERINTENDENT’S SEAT
Sure enough, most Kansas City area districts pulled the plug for
three straight days last week.
One was Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson, who said
sub-zero morning temperatures and the poor condition of
neighborhood streets extended the snow-day break an extra day.
Hinson explain more about the districts policy by clicking
the thumbnail in our video player above
“I do hear from more people now than I did a number of
years ago about whether we have school or not,” said Hinson,
who has worked as a superintendent for 15 years (since 2002 in
Hinson said characteristics have changed over the years. For
instance, he said more students are driving to school and more
staff members are commuting longer distances.
However, Hinson is skeptical a fear of litigation has softened
the snow day criteria for school administrators. Instead, he
believes instant communication has an influence.
“I do think when we hype up a big storm about how bad
it’s going to be, it impacts peoples’ perceptions about
whether they’re going to stay in or whether they’re
going to get out and navigate the system.”
>>>NEXT - WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SAY?
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US ABOUT SNOW DAY
Comparing the past two decades (1990-99; 2000-09) revealed an
increase in the number of snow days at almost every school in
Jackson County, Clay County and Cass County.
In Kansas City schools, there were 20 snow days in the
‘90s, but that figure jumped to 55 days the next decade.
In Liberty, snow days increased by 313 percent,
from 8 days in the ‘90s to 33 in the ‘00s.
North Kansas City (59%). Grandview (48%) and Pleasant Hill (84%)
also showed notable increases.
Kathy Toelkes, a spokeswoman with the
Department of Education, said the state does not collect
information on the number of days that districts take off for
inclement weather. Instead, KSDE only keeps track of the days the
districts designate for make-up days in the event of inclement
weather, which does not accurately reflect the number of snow days
that might have been taken.
However, data provided by the Shawnee Mission District dating
back to 1983 also showed a rising snow day trend.
>>>NEXT - CAN
THE CHANGE BE EXPLAINED BY WEATHER?
IS THERE A METEOROLOGICAL EXPLANATION?
NBC Action News Chief Meteorologist Gary Lezak said snowfall
totals in the two decades do not explain why so many districts saw
a steep increase.
“Even though there may be a little bit more in the 2000s
than the 1990s, it’s really about the same. So something else
is going on,” said Lezak, who has done forecasts in Kansas
City for 20 years.
Lezak said the difference could be a combination of
around-the-clock forecasts and the explosion of social media. He
has noticed a change in how quickly people react to winter
See more with
Gary by clicking the thumbnail in our video player above
“I think we’re a little softer on kids,” said
Lezak. “But I think, most importantly, it’s that
information highway. Superintendents are finding out what is going
Lezak said it also worth noting how a storm’s timing can
make all the difference when it comes to snow days. This
year’s blizzard arrived right in the middle of a school week.
On the other hand, the 2009 Christmas blizzard hit when kids were
already out of school.
A FORMER SUPERINTENDENT WEIGHS IN
It’s definitely a different environment than when Dr.
Orvin Plucker was calling the shots. During his 24-year tenure
(1962-86) in Kansas City, Kansas schools, Plucker developed quite a
reputation as superintendent—one that still sticks with him
when he bumps into former students.
“They’ll comment, ‘Oh, you’re the
superintendent of the schools who never let us get out on a bad
day!” said Plucker with a laugh.
Watch more with
Dr. Plucker by clicking the thumbnail in our video player
However, the retired superintendent said he and other area
administrators would discuss weather and road conditions early on
school days and occasionally decide to close. Plucker said it was
always a tough call because of single parents who risked losing a
day of income, but he believes students are exaggerating his
reluctance to call a snow day to make for better stories.
Plucker told NBC Action News he attended elementary school in a
rural area of South Dakota. So, on Feb. 3 when most area districts
cancelled school because of frigid temperatures, Plucker was asked
what he would have done if he was still superintendent.
“Well, it doesn’t feel too bad out here to
me!” said the 88-year-old with a smile.
So kids, maybe adults are telling the truth when they say they
used to walk uphill to school both ways in the blinding snow.
DISTRICTS SCRAMBLE TO ADJUST SNOW DAY CALENDARS
State law allows Missouri school districts to build six makeup
days into their calendar. They are required to make up those six
days and then only one day for every two days after that (up to 10
Kansas school districts can decide to build weather makeup days
into their calendar, too. If they surpass the number of snow days,
they will be forgiven as many days as they originally
NBC Action News contacted several area districts about their
The district has had six inclement weather days and has not made
a determination about calendar adjustments. The original last days
were May 25 (kindergarten) and May 26.
The district has had seven snow days. The original last day of
school was May 24, but it has now been moved to May 27. Some of the
snow days will be made up during Spring Break along with a day
originally designated for staff development.
The district has had eight snow days. The final day of school
will be announced once the chance for inclement weather has
The district has used nine snow days. The tentative last day of
school will be June 9, but it must go before the Board of Education
The district has had nine snow days so far. The last day of
school is planned for June 1, and additional snow days will be
added onto the end of the school year.
The district has had seven snow days and scheduled school on
Feb. 11, which was originally planned as a professional development
The district has had six snow days. No decisions have been made
about the calendar, but it will consider the options of adding days
to the end of the year, adding minutes to the school day, and
converting professional days to school days.
Kansas City, Kansas
The district has had five snow days. All five days will be added
to the end of the year. The original last day was May 25, but will
now be June 2.