A few weeks ago, I was able to enjoy the remarkable experience of bringing my son deer hunting for the first time with him being able to take part in the action.
We followed all of the annual traditions of hanging clothes outside for a couple of weeks, making a few runs to get gear and food, lining up our licenses and checking the lists in my head every night that week (of course, we would never write anything down when planning for a hunting trip!).
We scrambled out of work and school Friday afternoon, threw gear in the car and then raced to my dad’s house near Isle. I have to admit, it felt pretty odd telling folks we were going down south to go deer hunting! That was a new one for me.
While we did enjoy getting one small buck, my favorite part of the weekend was showing Sam around the land that was once my grandfather’s and his siblings’. He was able to see the homestead property that was settled by my great-grandfather, and I found myself trying to tell him some of the many stories I have heard over the years on hunting weekend.
As we were looking at the homestead I pointed south at the woods that were across a 160-acre hay field. I found myself saying, “Grandpa used to walk across that field and through those woods every day to get to school. Some of the stones of the one-room schoolhouse are still over there. Want to see it?”
So, of course, we drove down the road and around the big square to find it on the other side. Like any good dad, I had to take advantage of the clear opportunity to give the “we walked to school in a blizzard up hill both ways” story!
In reality, my dad did attend a one-room schoolhouse, and he and all of the students had to help split wood and care for the school. They walked close to a mile each way, and yes, they even walked in the snow, and the rain, and the cold.... There’s no cancelling school, after all, when there’s no way to communicate that it’s been closed!
Well, I’d like to say that we just don’t close school these days, but we all know that is no longer the expectation of our communities. When weather is questionable, I will be in contact with our transportation director, other area superintendents and area transportation officials.
Our transportation director or I may get out and drive some of the most difficult roads to confirm conditions on the ground. Our goal is to make a decision by 5:30 a.m. or no later than 6 a.m. if at all possible as we have employees rolling in by that time.
We will communicate the message to families and staff through our automated phone calling system, our district website and the following radio/TV stations: 93.3, 102.7, 103.5, 106.7, 107.5, WCCO, KARE-11, KKIN Aitkin, KSTP, WDIO/WIRT TV, and http://www.cancellations.com.
It takes a while to connect to all of these venues so please know we implement our phone calling system first.
My decision to delay or close school is based on the safety of our students, and we also recognize that any change of routine puts a significant strain on many of our families. Our excellent team of bus drivers will always put a safe bus ride ahead of an on-time bus ride. Please know we make our decisions with the best information we have at the time.
As Sam and I drove past the area where the one-room schoolhouse stood, I couldn’t help but think about how different it is today. They didn’t have TV stations, Doppler radar, phone calling systems, road temp maps and hand-held gadgets to help make a decision.
I’m guessing his old man walked back from the barn in the morning and said, “If I can milk the cow you can get to school.” While a tough way of living, there’s something a bit refreshing about that.