A Brief History of School Closings

Remember huddling around the radio listening to school closings? It wasn’t that long ago that you’d have to wait and wait for Don Weeks or somebody to give you word that school was shut down. Five minutes… ten minutes… they would drone on and on. God forbid you missed it. Then you’d wait and wait and wait some more.

TV news made school closings on the radio obsolete by putting the information on the bottom of the screen — but the new technology had unintended consequences. The idea was to encourage people to watch your station, but instead they watched every station. Rather than sit and wait patiently, people stood in front of the TV playing snow closing roulette, racing between five channels trying to find the one that hit their school first.

But as with all media, the Internet has been a game changer for school closing information. Who would stand in front of the TV madly changing channels when you can just get online and see if school is closed?

Now it’s changed again. Today I get a text message that tells me school is cancelled. While you’re wasting valuable seconds pointing and clicking, I’m just looking at my phone. Hahaha. Chumps.

It’s my understanding that NBC Olympic Czar Dick Ebersol has a plan that could make TV school closings relevant again: keep the information from your viewers and broadcast it in primetime, packaged with emotional segments that set up the drama of school closings and keep you watching all night. Sounds like a great idea.

13 thoughts on “A Brief History of School Closings

  1. I remember those days listening to the radio. They went so fast that you had to listen to it 3 more times just to make sure you heard it right.

    It’s funny I still look today for my old school to see if it’s closed. Nostalgia I guess. I don’t even have any children. My school didn’t always close so when I see the name on the list I know it must be bad out.

    Ravena Coeymans Selkirk is always closed too.

  2. From 4th grade on I went to school in Cambridge, which was a hardy farming community back then and rarely closed. But, hell yeah, we hovered over the radio, hoping to hit the lottery. I remember that they didn’t even try to alphabetize the school names, so you not only had to listen to every word, but you could only reckon your chances by geography. “They just called Greenwich! It’s a total gyp if we have to go in.” And how come they never announce that a certain school is open, damn it, so go get dressed?

    And, yes, Ichabod Crane always closes, since forever. Know who else? St. Mary’s of the Snow. I think they have to.


  3. Not nearly as nostalgic cool but way more convenient is getting the school closing alerts on your cell phone.
    Sign up at http://www.timesunion.com/closings (it’s free) and you’ll get a text message as soon as the school posts the closing. All the local media share the same data source, so no worries about not getting listings from radio or tv.
    As for me, being the official TU tester for this feature, I’m automatically signed up to get alerts for every blessed school in the greater Capital Region. I got pelted with hundreds of text messages this morning, starting at 5:21. Thank God for the silence button on the BlackBerry!

  4. My school district was Baldwinsville. They ran through the list alphabetically and I would hold my breath until I heard my district’s name…or the next name alphabetically, meaning that we were going to school as scheduled.

    Auburn – 1 hour delay
    Cicero-North Syracuse…

  5. my child went to Ichabod, and contrary to popular belief, they did not close as much as the city folk thought. Just the name “Ichabod” sticks out more. More 2-hour delays maybe, but not closings. Hoosick Falls had more. But when you think about putting school busses on icy back-country roads, tis better to err on the side of caution.

  6. Believe me, you don’t get as exhausted as you can truly get until you’ve read hundreds and hundreds of closings on the radio every half hour starting at 5:30am until 8:10am……God forbid, the guy who took my notes would make a mistake and accidently close the wrong school! Man, there was hell to pay! I did it for years on air and the new way to get them truly trumps the old. Viva la technology!

  7. Ric: Thanks for checking in — it’s interesting to hear it from the perspective of someone who had to read all that stuff. It always sounded
    like school closings made for a hellish morning on the air.

  8. Hi there, Ric Mitchell! Long time no hear. Lost track of you. Used to e-mail you now and then, probably more nows than thens, way back when. Frequently included presentable stories(jokes), which you sometimes said you were gonna use. Old email addresses were either PCFarmer@… or DelmarNYnative@….

    Checked your website and you still look younger than me, and definately about 10 years younger than Rob. lol Rob’ll probably turn his dogs loose on me for that.

    Even tho I grew up in Delmar, I went to school in Albany. Could you please explain to me what snow days are. I can’t recall if we EVER had snow days. But, I do remember the day in January 1956, my mother let me skip school, so I could ride with my dad on his delivery to Cobleskill. Snow banks along Rte 7 at the Schenectady/Schoharie county line were are least half the height of the utility poles. And the note mom sent me to school with the next day, explaining my absence, would have put a politician to shame.

  9. Sheila: In our house, we’ve viewed some portion of the primetime broadcast every single night. That’s exceptional.

    I’ve watched regardless of having read the results in the afternoon — and never once did it stop me from enjoying what I saw. There’s a lot of criticism this year on the way the time shifting is packaged, but it’s hard to argue with success.

    My only regret is that I haven’t yet upgraded to HDTV 🙁

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