Boy, it sure was cold last week. Probably the coldest it’s ever been round these parts. You walked outside and your nose froze right off your face. Everyone, and we mean everyone, stayed home. The entire Chicago metro area shuttered for two days as front doors froze to their frames. Entire business districts went black.

Oh, wait, that didn’t happen. It was simply cold.

So, why again was just about every school district in the Chicago area closed for one or two days last week? If you’re the parent of a school-age student, it was just a pain in the neck. You still went to work. Or took a forced day off, because there was no one to watch the kids. Or finagled a non-working family member to watch them. Or paid someone to babysit.

 Listen, we know it was cold. Last year when schools closed for a couple days because of frigid temperatures — if memory serves it also snowed a helluva lot — it was actually dangerously cold, reaching temps close to 20-below.

Last week, it was single digits below zero on Jan. 7 — when a host of public and private schools made the call. Yeah, that’s cold. But it’s not stay-at-home cold. 

On Jan. 8 it was a bit colder. Some schools that remained open the day before closed. Others that were closed on Jan. 7, remarkably, boldly sent out messages that, by gum, everyone was coming back to class on Jan. 8. When it was colder.

Mostly, what we witnessed last week was a case of scholastic peer pressure. Once Chicago Public Schools announced they were out, the run was on. It built like an avalanche throughout the evening on Jan. 7, with some districts waiting until after 10 p.m. to make the call. By that time, it’s getting late to make contingency plans as a parent.

We’re not saying there won’t be circumstances where either heavy snow or excessive cold will conspire to close schools. But, come on.

Policy pivot

There was a time when the thought of handing every elementary school student a laptop computer was intriguing. School districts with such policies were seen as being on the cutting edge of technology and giving their students a leg up on their competition in other districts.

In Riverside, the program has never lived up to the promise, plagued by technical issues that had more to do with the district’s inability to connect those computers with the district’s servers than the computers themselves.

With recent upgrades, the technical issues are receding, but the fact is that full-fledged Apple laptops are expensive and that tablets may be not only cheaper, but easier for students to use and lug around.

We’ll be interested in seeing how this pilot program using tablets fares this winter and spring. With a concurrent look at how these devices support the curriculum and enhance learning, perhaps District 96 can pivot its policy and improve on a device program that has been problematic in recent years.