There’s no good way to break the news of another snow day to Minnesota parents.
But there is a great way.
Two weeks and half a dozen snow days ago, the polar vortex slammed into Minnesota, sending temperatures plunging to lower than 30 below. Up in Moorhead, a piano hit the opening chords of The Turtles’ “Happy Together.” Bundled-up members of the high school choir gathered around Superintendent Brandon Lunak as he launched into spoken verse.
The temperature was cold
The wind was so severe and cruel
We canceled school
The polar vortex came and sent
a record low
It’s colder than Fargo.
Breaking into song to break the news of yet another snow day isn’t a new thing for American schools, but it is a big thing this year.
The hardworking staff at Education Week rounded up some of 2019’s singing snow-day superintendents. In Bowling Green, Ohio, a school administrator teamed up with a music class to set the snow day announcement to “When I’m Gone” (“You’re going to miss us, ‘cause we’re closed.”) In Iowa, the superintendent of the Missouri Valley schools busted out a rousing version of “Faith.” (“I had to think twice/Before I sent the bus your way.”)
Snow days are the best. Unless you’re a parent. Or a school administrator answering angry phone calls, scheduling make-up days, and trying to make sure the kids who rely on school lunch programs still have access to a meal. Or someone who had to walk 5 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways, when you were a kid and you never got a snow day.
Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff — a man who refuses to burst into song — greets snow emergencies with apologetic videos and Star Trek metaphors.
“It’s never an easy decision …” begins last Friday’s announcement that Minneapolis schools were closing in response to icy roads, frigid temperatures and falling snow.
“There are never easy decisions when it comes to closing school for weather,” says Graff. “In fact, all you Trekkies would know this as a Kobayashi Maru.”
In other words, snow days are no-win scenarios for a superintendent.
If you cancel school, everybody yells at you because pfft, you call that a snow emergency? I spent part of second grade going to school in a convent basement because there was a blizzard and it was too expensive to heat the school.
If you don’t cancel school, everybody yells at you because of January 2018 in St. Paul , when buses couldn’t make it down the unplowed streets and kids were stranded at school until late at night.
So superintendents make the best call they can. And if they can, they turn the call into performance art.
Moorhead High choir director Kathie Brekke pitched the idea of a sung school-closing announcement. One of her students in the high school jazz ensemble, Margaret Dickey, rewrote the lyrics of a song the school’s vocal jazz group already knew.
“It took a few hours of trying to figure out phrases that had the same rhythm as ‘so happy together,’ ” Brekke wrote in an account passed on by school administrators. “We tried ‘Frozen Minnesota,’ ‘My car still won’t start yet,’ ‘My brakes are still frozen,’ and others before finally picking ‘It’s colder than Fargo.’ ”
“It’s colder than Fargo,” the seven choir members sing, wrapping up the Jan. 30 school closing announcement. “Is school closed tomorrow? It’s colder than Fargoooo.”
Superintendent Lunak pops back into view.
“Nope,” he says. “But we are two hours late tomorrow.”