54 Comments

  1. Growing up in Canada, I never had a snow day. However, having discussed this with friends from USA, including a teacher, this is my understanding:

    -each year, a number of days are tacked on to the end of the school schedule (be it in May or June) that are not needed to teach what is scheduled for the year
    -during winter, if there is severe weather that stops the school buses from travelling, school will be closed for a “snow day”
    -as a snow day means that the lessons for that day weren’t taught, everything is pushed back in the schedule by a day
    -at the end of the schedule, the extra days that were allotted are used to teach the remaining material. So, if there were three snow days, school runs an extra three days.
    -if there were no snow days, school ends at the end of the normal schedule and the provisional days are just part of the summer vacation

    Caulfield is asking what will happen when the extra days at the end of the school year are too hot to go to school (presumably due to climate change). Since the more severe winters are also attributed to climate change, it’s sort of a lose-lose deal, where condition are both too cold and too hot to have school.

    Fraz says to dress in layers, which is the advice you normally give to people when it is too cold. Maybe this is a callback to the severe winters, so we realize that the cold winters and hot summers are connected? Maybe also a joke, like, wear a lot of layers so that when you take them off, you will feel cool.

  2. I’ve never heard of any jurisdiction that schedules “provisional” school days. In most cases, each state legislates a minimum number of school days per year, but the school disctricts plan the schedule with a few extra days, depending on the local climate. If school is cancelled because of snow, it reduces the schedule by that number of days. If it never snows, kids go to school for a few more days than the law requires. Nobody would want to end school unexpectedly early, because all the parents would suddenly have to arrange for daycare.
    If an unexpected blizzard uses up too many snow days, the schools may have to tack on an extra day at the end of the year, or in some cases at the beginning of the next year (depending on how the clause “per year” is written: school year or calendar year).
    P.S. In my senior year in high school, we had one snow day too many, but the planned last day of school was a Friday. Keeping school open on the following Monday would have been insane and useless. After a tense period of waiting, the state legislature passed a special exception, allowing us to graduate despite the missing day. I believe they did schedule a makeup day for everyone else in the following Fall.

  3. Kilby has the right of it. For example, New York State requires 180 days of instruction. Most districts in my part of the state schedule 183.

  4. @ Powers – New York’s students (and/or their bus drivers) are tougher than those in suburban D.C. The county I lived in scheduled five snow days per year, and I think that was normal for the entire region.

  5. My guess is that when (if) we settle into a pattern of too-hot summers, there will be milder winters to go with it. I’m not too worried about it, I’ve been out of school for “a few” years.

    And Frazz’s comment may just be “too bad trying to schedule winter snow days, they aren’t going to happen if summer become the more dangerous of the two”

  6. Here’s how it works in Oregon. It rarely snows there in the winter, in the sense of snow falling, settling on the ground, and staying there in frozen form. Ergo, when it DOES happen, school tends to be cancelled for the day while we wait for the snow to melt. This means that a day that was MEANT to be a school day is now a not-a-school day. To make up for this, the school year is extended by a day, so school lets out for vacation a day later, and a not-school day is converted to a school day, balancing out the scales.
    However, many Oregon school buildings are not air-conditioned. The building gets hot in the summertime, but nobody’s in it, so it doesn’t matter.

    A few years ago, the local school district had to add so many snow make-up days that summer vacation didn’t start until July. A decade ago, we had an ice storm that hit in mid-December. About 8 inches of snow fell, followed by an inch of freezing rain, followed by two weeks of sub-freezing weather. Schoolchildren had almost a month of winter vacation, because it finally melted off just when the vacation started. I remember this event quite well because the two weeks of ice started just as finals started, at the law school I was attending at the time, which is located in a beautiful hilltop location.
    One more story:
    In my youth, the county’s major industry was agriculture. An important crop was strawberries, and the harvest workforce was primarily young people between about 10 and 16 years old. When the berry crop came in, and it was time to harvest, the schools closed. Oregon strawberries are harvested from late May to late June. School was from the day after labor day until it was time to go pick the strawberries. Nowadays, there is only a tiny fraction of the acreage of strawberries, and the major local industry is production of semiconductors, which can be harvested year-round.

  7. Just this past August in eastern Massachusetts, we had school closings and early dismissal due to excessive heat. At least one gigantic school with no A/C did stay open.

    I remember when, but I never understood how or why public schools switched to starting the year in late August.

  8. Where I am currently, there are schools on a year-round schedule. The summer vacation isn’t very long, but all the other vacations are a bit longer, so they have the same number of school days. To make it more interesting, some of the schools have traditional schedules, and some have year-round schedules… in the same school district. Every time they re-draw the school boundaries, they get complaints from parents and children who aren’t just moving to a new school, but a new calendar.

  9. Several decades ago, about a half-inch of snow fell in Portland (Oregon). Schools didn’t close, but a friend of mine kept her kids home anyway, figuring that this might be their only chance to play in a bit of snow before it melted.

  10. Of course there can be (and in some places are) days reserved as make-up days if needed, for whatever kind of emergency earlier in the year might have closed schools on a day they were planned to be open.

    I don’t think the following PDF will embed, but if you follow the link and look at the cryptic chart (there is a much friendlier version, but with less info), note how June 21 thru 27 are in gray with an “e” annotation, explained in the legend as just the thing we’re discussing.

    https://cps.edu/SiteCollectionDocuments/SY18-19Calendar_English.pdf

  11. In the Seattle area, we had five snow days this year. My school district plans to extend the school year by two days, but also has to apply for permission from the state because it’s less net sum is too different from how long the school year was planned to be.

  12. Not sure, but the first panel might be based on the perception that kids today are coddled too much and the number of snow days increases every year (“I used to walk in 2 feet of snow!”).

    The comment about layers makes no sense to me though. Yes it’s good advice in extreme cold weather but at least in my experience school is very seldom closed due to cold temperatures.

  13. It very much depends on where you live and what kind of weather is “normal”. Having lived in Florida and now in Illinois, the standards are much different. Florida occasionally had hurricane days, which were never planned for and just had to be either written off or made up at the end of the year. On the extremely rare occasions of snow, everything comes to a complete halt, because they haven’t got the infrastructure to deal with it.* In Illinois, the schools have closed for both heat days (because many of the schools just don’t have A/C) and snow days. Usually the heat days are just shortened, not fully closed, so they just shorten all the classes by 5 or 10 minutes that day and get out early, before the heat gets totally unbearable. Those don’t get made up. For snow days, it’s usually because the wind chill is so bad that it’s not safe to wait outside for the bus to pick up the kids.** Sometimes the road conditions are such that rural areas don’t get bus service but the rest of the town does. (I think the kids in the rural areas are automatically excused those days, but I’m not sure.) They have several days flagged as “we’ll use them if we need them” days at the end of the year, but we haven’t really had to use them yet (though we haven’t been here long).

    The standards for not having outside recess are also very different. In Florida, they didn’t usually go outside if the temp was below 40, certainly not if it was below freezing, but there was no such thing as “too hot”. In Illinois, I’m not sure of the exact rule, but it’s something like “we go outside as long as the windchill is above 0”. And they don’t go out to play when it’s over 90. Obviously, if Florida cold standard was applied in IL, kids would never go out in winter, and similarly, Florida kids would never go out from about March to October if they didn’t go out when the heat was over 90. It’s all relative.

    * A family member of mine once had their flight delayed a couple of hours in a S. Florida airport because the plane had ice on the wings, and they didn’t have any de-icing equipment, so all they could do was park the plane in the sun and wait for the ice to melt.

    **The bus system here (for high school) is really weird to me, as only the more rural areas get yellow buses. The kids who live in town take the city buses to school. I think they have special runs to pick up the kids, but it’s still weird.

  14. I suspect that areas that don’t get much snow will have more snow days. I was driving back to Chicago from Kentucky and there were RED ALERT! type warnings about dangerous conditions. There was *maybe* an inch, but locals didn’t have much experience driving on snow, especially snow on a road that hadn’t been salted in the past decade. The caution seemed funny to me, but was almost certainly warranted.

  15. The county I grew up in would frequently open schools one or two hours late on snowy days. This didn’t count as a “closing”, so the calendar was unaffected. We always thought that the primary reason for snow days was for the school busses, but I later learned that kids on foot was the primary consideration; they didn’t want any injuries from slips and falls.
    I don’t remember ever getting out for high temperatures, except for a special case in which there was a fire at a local water pumping station, so there wasn’t enough water to use for the high volume airconditioning systems that many of the schools used. That forced a 2.5 day closure.

  16. We live in an extremely hilly area and every winter, people complain about schools being delayed or closed because of a few inches of snow. No matter how many times it gets explained, nobody seems willing or able to grasp the fact that there are some areas where school buses cannot safely travel if there’s a coating of ice.

  17. Memories of huddling in front of the TV waiting to see if your school would show up on the closed list. You’d think that would be over once out of school and working, but MegaCorp would sometimes close for weather.

    In later years an odd circumstance arose. On “plant closing” days, those with work-at-home capability (anyone with a company laptop) were expected to work that day. Those of us who didn’t could watch cartoons in our jammies.

  18. Berber: Unfortunately, milder winters at the north pole make it more likely for the polar vortex to send cold air south – things are overall warmer, but some of that warmer-than-usual-but-still-frigid air makes an appearance over the temperate latitudes.

  19. In Michigan (where Frazz is set), public school districts pad the schedule with 3-5 extra days to allow for snow days. In years with exceptionally bad winters, the kids may have to make up an extra day or so to get to the mandatory 180 days (I think) of available days of attendance. However, such occurrences are extremely rare (if the problem effects a large number of districts, the state will typically reduce the requirement for that specific school year), but it is something that school kids worry about: kids want the max number of snow days, but they don’t want to exceed it and have to attend extra days in June.

    As far as the joke is concerned, the first frame is simply Mallett’s well-used model of Caulfield yanking Mrs. Olsen’s chain by responding to her “Any questions?” with an irrelevant rat-hole inquiry. His question is deliberately somewhat paradoxical: if global warming makes it too warm to go to school in June, it is unlikely that you will run out of snow days. “Wear more layers” is simply Frazz’s way of pointing out that this will only happen when Hell freezes over.

    Of course this grossly simplifies the potential effects of climate change, but it’s just a joke. As a side, I will note that Hell, MI, is located fairly near (and mostly east) of the region in which Frazz is set, so if Caulfield’s hypothetical situation does occur, it is quite likely that Hell will have frozen over– at least for a while– over the course of the school year.

  20. ” the first panel might be based on the perception that kids today are coddled too much and the number of snow days increases non-every year”

    Again referring to my youth, three snowflakes in the air simultaneously constituted a “blizzard” and had two immediate consequences… schools would close, and all the local TV stations would send reporters to the same intersection to cover the news. Sometimes you could see one station’s crew in the background of another station’s broadcast.

    My daughter, on the other hand, once had a day off from school because of a FORECAST of snow… that didn’t materialize.

    I believe that Mr. Mallett is attempting to “generalize” the weather… rather than describing what schools would do where his fictional school is actually set, he’s trying to present a vague, nonspecific response that is at least similar to what schools would do in a majority of the places where newspapers buy his strip. People who experience winter in actual Michigan don’t experience it the way people experience it throughout the rest of the U.S. It just so happens that the approach he describes is close to what the Pacific Northwest actually does… I don’t think it’s actually anything like what schools in Michigan do.

    Another, unrelated story: The school funding system in Oregon changed a while back, from being almost exclusively local property-tax based to being largely state-income-tax based. This meant that state bureaucrats decided funding questions, and told the local districts how much money they’d have. One district got a substantial cut in state funding, assuming that it would be re-calculated before the end of the school year. It wasn’t, and the district ran out of money in April, and the school year ended abruptly. I was right on the border between the district that budgeted correctly, and operated schools into June, and the one that ended 6 or 7 weeks early.

  21. “I was driving back to Chicago from Kentucky and there were RED ALERT! type warnings about dangerous conditions. There was *maybe* an inch, but locals didn’t have much experience driving on snow”

    Two years ago, I got stuck on I-84 right in Portland. The highway ends in two flyover ramps, one to I-5 NB and one to I-5 SB. We got about 2 inches of snow, that started right around noon. So everybody got up, saw no snow on the ground, and went to work. Then the snow came at lunchtime and everybody tried to dash home. Twits who were unprepared to drive in snow (no snow tires, no chains) got themselves sideways and immobilized on the two flyover ramps at the end of I-84, blocking all traffic, including the sanding trucks and snowplows that would have made it safe (probably) to drive on, even for twits who don’t know how to drive in light snow. By the time I got on scene, about 6, it had long stopped snowing, but all the roads were backed up with heavy traffic… and there was no way to know that literally NO traffic was getting by. They didn’t clear the ramps until about 3 A.M., because the traffic was so bad that nobody, not even the DOT crews, could get anywhere. I finally made it home about 12 hours after leaving work, or about when I should have been getting up to go to work.
    There were some very nice, very helpful people who were out, helping to push cars. Had I a direct connection to a higher power, they would have ALL shared the next lottery jackpot. However, for the idiots that decided to drive around in the snow despite having 0 skill at doing so, along with 0 preparation, there would have been horrible, face-melting illness suitable for a Gahan Wilson cartoon, lasting at least a week.

  22. ” if global warming makes it too warm to go to school in June, it is unlikely that you will run out of snow days.”

    Mallett’s right; more heat in the atmosphere means bigger and more severe storms in the wintertime. i.e., more snow days. Also (alas) more stupid people making “where’s our global warming? We could sure use some right now! LOL” jokes.

  23. @ Bill – The difference in elevation between the southeast and northwest corners of the county I grew up in was enough to somtimes produce a significant difference in accumulation. On occasion we were astonished to hear (in the radio, never on TV) that schools were closed, even though the amount around our house was barely enough to make a snowball.

  24. Where I grew up, we ended school on the announced date no matter what. Snow days were made up on school holidays, and if we ran out of those, on Saturdays! We didn’t like snow days.

  25. I’ll have to close my day by thanking Mallett for poking me into looking up a few more articles (yes, on the Internet). There are several scholarly papers suggesting a more volatile mix of weather, both hot and cold, if global temp rises. An awful lot to ask from a comic, but he delivers!

  26. Not only does our small town have crazy degrees of elevation, there’s a huge lake at one end. It’s no Lake Michigan, but they definitely get a Lake Effect: sometimes more than two more inches of snow than across town.

  27. “It just so happens that the approach he describes is close to what the Pacific Northwest actually does… I don’t think it’s actually anything like what schools in Michigan do.”

    What Mallett describes is exactly what public schools in Michigan (and probably all of the Great Lake states) do: the school year includes extra non-mandated days (three where I currently live, and also three where I grew up in northern Ohio). As a result, you can have three snow days without the district needing to add make-up days. But if the number of snow days exceeds the allotted amount, you must make up the snow days extra days by extending the school year.

    And FWIW, I’m not trying to claim that Mallett is trying to accurately depict public school policy in Michigan: he’s simply describing the procedure familiar to anyone who grew up in the region. Most of us would probably assume it works that way pretty much anywhere snow can be a problem. My primary point was simply that what Caulfield describes (having to make up extra snow days in the summer) is a very real thing. Kids keep track of their snow days. Any pending snow storm is viewed with great anticipation of a potential snow day– unless you’ve already hit the max for the year, in which case the possibility of an additional snow day is viewed with considerably mixed emotions.

    On another note, upon further reflection, I agree that both Caulfield and Frazz are saying that climate change will result in harsher conditions in both winter and summer. In the final frame Caulfield is asserting that given the current path, this is inevitable, and Frazz is agreeing, and suggesting to wear layers during those harsh winter days.

    Incidentally, a few weeks ago, most of the schools in Michigan were closed do to high winds on top of bitter cold temps, yielding wind chills of -40F and colder.

  28. “What Mallett describes is exactly what public schools in Michigan (and probably all of the Great Lake states) do: the school year includes extra non-mandated days”

    I read it differently… if school is extending into the “too hot” part of the summer, then they had to convert days off school into school days. That happens when you DON’T plan for snow days. I expect Michigan school districts to anticipate the possibility of snow.

  29. @James Pollock
    The key word is “extra.” Caulfield does not say that that they will have to make up all snow days: he says they will have to make up the EXTRA snow days.

    I’m sure that Mallett intends his strip to be understood outside of Michigan, but he does fairly frequently put in little details that are Michigan-centric. Take the Mastodon strip that was recently posted on CIDU– the Mastodon is the state fossil of Michigan. There have been story problems with Michigan cities; sports references to Tigers, Red Wings, etc,; and the artwork occasionally includes Michigan landmarks.

  30. Our local school district has a few built in days off here and there starting in late February to the end of the school year that are cancelled if any snow days happen. This year we had 4 so far. I think they used them up and will have to tack a day on the end of the year.

    I remember when I was a kid, we had to go to school for 4 hours on a Saturday to make the year official so the Seniors could graduate on time. (I believe that night!) Rural district with the buses running and everything. That was when the cartoons were a Saturday morning staple before VCRs….we felt cheated.

  31. “I’m sure that Mallett intends his strip to be understood outside of Michigan, but he does fairly frequently put in little details that are Michigan-centric.”

    It’s got details that are Michigan-centric, but not things that are Michigan-specific. Putting a Red-Wings jersey on a kid doesn’t require Mallett to explain what hockey is, because hockey is known even in states where it is lightly practiced by schoolchildren.
    Again, my reading of the dialogue here is that, to me, it seemed like it was genericized. Some places plan for snow days in their school calendars, and some do not. In the ones that don’t, they’d either have to go with a shorter school year, or tack on the makeup days. Without ever having been closer than 30,000 away from Michigan, I came to the conclusion that schools in MI would have a plan for snow days.

  32. Robert used to be director of an agency for children with emotional problems. It was a school as well as being counseling services. So he had to set up the schedule for the agency following the school rules for NYS. He had to have (the mentioned elsewhere) 180 days – of which 3 days could be teacher conference days for education for the teachers (and the rest of the staff in his case). He would then add 5 days to the schedule for snow days, which seems to be the standard around here – except NYC never used to have snow days as they did not close until more recent years as children tended to be VERY local to their schools (Per a song in the play :The Magic Show” about living in NYC, the character sings about going to school “with kids whose folks all live in 7 blocks”) or they take public transportation (school buses seem to be a recent phenomenon) for long distances the subway and, again, until recently the subway kept running in all weather (as far back as Robert and I can remember and my dad said same.)

    The schedule was a giant puzzle every year. In this area (I mention as we found out that that other places are different in some of this) there are 2 days off for Thanksgiving, just over a week for Christmas, a week off in February starting with President’s Day (this last added in the 1970s during the energy problems). Then there is about another week off in March to April for Passover and Easter – and when they do not overlap – oyyy – it has to be juggled – often with a split week. There are individual holidays off such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, in a presidential year – Election Day, Martin Luther King Jr Day, and Memorial Day (and whatever else I forgot). Today there are more holidays given off, depending on the school year, for Lunar New Year, 2 Muslim holidays, some HIndu holidays and so on.

    The 180 days must be finished by the end of June – and must match up at the end of the year with the state Regents exams for 9th through 12th grades. He had the additional problem of having a summer session for all the students so they would finish for June 30th and then start again in July through the end of August.

    If the snow days were not used by Memorial Day weekend, the extra days would be added to same. (Cannot be used to end the school year early due to needing to match the state Regents exams, which are given at the same time all over the state.) If they ran short of days during the year, same would lose Friday of Memorial Day weekend as one of the days to make up the shortage. Once they were short of days and gave the teachers take home work for their teacher conference days and used the conference days for time in class.

    Now, the definition of “day”. It is obviously not always a full school day as there are sometimes half days before a vacation. It is defined as “any part of a day”, so half days count as full days. Once they had a heating problem at the agency – when the buses came in with the children, they took attendance on the bus and sent the children home – full day counted.

  33. Meryl, when I was growing up the public school district had had a very significant Jewish population, but I don’t remember us every getting days off for Passover.

  34. Two things – my sister went to a different high school than I did (I went to a magnet school); she tells me that the policy at her school was that if it was so hot that three students or one teacher collapsed from the heat, school closed. No A/C in the majority of the classrooms (this was in Virginia, near DC). I don’t remember my school ever being particularly hot, but I don’t know if we had A/C or just better construction (or more trees around the building!).

    Second – I live in Northern California, in the SF Bay Area, now. This time of year, and in fall, the rule is to wear layers – not to keep warm, but because it will be chilly in the morning, hot shortly after noon, and abruptly cold again as the sun goes down. If you’re not at home to change clothes, you wear layers so you can take off your jacket, then your overshirt and just wear a t-shirt, then bundle up again at sunset… So that’s how I read Frazz’s comment (not sure how Mallett intended it, but that’s how I read it) – climate change will mean wide swings of temperature, wear layers so you can adjust easily.

  35. @ CIDU Bill – Our county added all the “High Holy Days” to the school holiday calender when I was in fourth grade (give or take a year). As kids, we thought this was a fantastic idea (those of us who were Goyim also got those days off, but still didn’t have to go to Temple services). None of us realized (at the time) that the state still mandated 180 school days per year, so all this did was shift the last day of school farther into June.

  36. @ jjmcgaffey – I cannot remember the last time that schools in (or around) Berlin closed for snow, but early heat closures are a common occurrence here in late August or early September. The criteria is a little more humane than at your sister’s school: they measure the temperature in the classrooms at a certain time in the morning. If a predefined limit is exceeded, the day’s schedule is shortened (either by dropping the last one or two periods, or by shortening all periods by about 10 minutes). This is all individual from school to school, and is at the discretion of the respective principal.

  37. Before our entire building was air-conditioned, only the pricipal’s office had a/c, which I thought was awf’ly unfair.

    We had one HOT September and even tho the building was near Lake Michigan and all our (huge) windows were opened, we were sweltering. And of course, every person who came in my office would say, ‘It’s HOT in here!’ I would tell them, ‘Yes, I’m perfectly aware of that, and if you would please stop REMINDING me, we’d all be better off.’

    Imagine having a class after gym, when showers were no longer mandatory!!

    In an effort to save costs, most of the schools had their windows covered, so those schools couldn’t even open their windows.

  38. I went to basic training in San Antonio, in July and August. Excessive heat IS a problem. They used a weird measurement system that takes humidity into account, and all outdoor activity is stopped or limited when it goes over the present limit. As a result, all the challenging, physically demanding tasks are scheduled for first thing in the morning, and then after the red flag goes up, we head inside for classroom learning.
    Then, I went to Denver for technical training, and stayed there until January. My tech school was indoors, and therefore never cancelled for snow. The thing is, they gather us up in front of the barracks, and march us to the hangar where we learned. The barracks is across the street from the hangar. So if it snowed overnight, which it did a time or two every day, we’d form up into a column and march on the sidewalk, across the street, and into the hangar. Whoever was in the front of the column of the first class to head out would march on snow, everybody else would be marching on packed ice. If one guy slips and falls while marching in close formation, so do several other people. I’m guessing that there was an officer looking out a second-floor window, counting how many people went down each morning, to name the winner of the pool. No, it DEFINITELY would have been a non-com.

  39. “when I was growing up the public school district had had a very significant Jewish population, but I don’t remember us every getting days off for Passover.”

    They call it “spring break” to avoid tying it to religion. But the schools also let parents keep children home for religious holidays, at the parents’ discretion. “Deer season” counted in one of the schools I went to; the school was about half empty during the first week of deer hunting.

  40. James, whatever they called it, it still took place during Easter Week regardless of when Passover fell. So it was Easter Break.

    The first day of Passover was an excused absence, but schools were never closed,

  41. “it still took place during Easter Week regardless of when Passover fell.”

    I was under the impression that Easter comes around at the same time Passover does, since The Last Supper was a Passover meal. I admit to not actually caring when either one comes around.

  42. James, because of full-moon technicalities not worth going into here, AND the peculiarities of the Hebrew calendar (leap-months, don’t ask), the two holidays roughly coincide OR they fall about a month apart.

  43. My understanding is that when the rules were imported to define when Easter happens, they were imported wrong… plus this was all before Maimonides fixed the calendar. So when the two holidays do occasionally coincide, it’s by accident.

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