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At the risk of sounding cold, delays ridiculous

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

This is going to sound self-serving, perhaps courageous — because it is – but ...

One morning when I was in elementary school, I woke up and there was a foot of snow outside. My mother checked the TV news to make sure school was open. It was, so she made sure I was bundled up and sent me off. I walked about a mile, well, OK, one-third of a mile, but — BOTH WAYS. Yet I survived and here I am today with nary a sign of frostbite.

So I have to ask: What's with the two-hour delays to the start of school across the region because of the cold?

It's winter. In Western Pennsylvania. Schools in the upper Midwest have had to deal with this deep freeze for more than a week now. Do you think they cut two hours off every school day start there because of the cold?

On Wednesday, the official low temperature at the National Weather Service Pittsburgh office in Moon was 4 degrees. On Tuesday, the low temperature was 5 degrees. The wind chill made it feel like it was between 10 to 20 degrees below zero all day on both days.

Like many other area school districts, Ebony Pugh, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Public Schools, said the delays are all about safety.

“We're trying to think of students,” she told me.

The best part of the lame delaying-school-because-it's-cold argument is that it's going to improve temperatures. When we're talking about going from 5 degrees to 7 degrees in two hours, really, how can you tell? Soul-crushing cold is soul-crushing cold.

Is the bitter weather from the early 1980s, when I was in school, and other years somehow worse than the cold of today? Of course not.

Fred McMullen, NWS meteorologist, told me it shouldn't be much of a surprise, either, to residents here, because we get really cold weather spells every two or three years.

“It might be a shock for those who are just moving here,” he said.

Are school-aged children really so fragile these days that they can't stand outside and wait for a bus for five to 10 minutes?

Contrary to apparent belief, they are not.

“In this weather, it takes about 30 minutes for frostbite to set in,” McMullen said, provided people are properly dressed when they go out.

There is no apparent low-temperature tripwire for area schools that sets a delay into motion. Pugh said the goal is to give students more time to get ready for classes and dress appropriately for the cold.

Oh-kaaay. So why have a two-hour delay and not cancel evening sporting events and activities when the temperatures are falling again? If the cold is an issue in the morning, why isn't it an issue at night? At that point, by the way, it still feels like 10 to 20 degrees below zero.

Pugh said Pittsburgh Public school delays are a districtwide decision, while individual schools within the district decide on after-school activities.

Citing difficulties in canceling and rescheduling, most schools opt to continue with scheduled athletic events.

Well, you don't want to fall behind in sports.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669 or nvanaski@tribweb.com. You also can reach her via Twitter @NafariTrib.

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