As recent media reports indicate, both Waterloo Region school boards have announced the end of snow days. If buses are not running due to inclement weather then students switch to online learning.
I grew up on a farm near Mitchell and experienced snow days. I saw a snow week and spent two nights at school during my year in the fourth grade – that is year and not years.
On the morning of Tuesday, January 26, 1971, buses delivered students to Upper Thames Elementary School. Around 11 AM principal Len Brouse announced we were going home. A group of buses left at noon with the rest of us awaiting an afternoon vacation.
However, instead of leaving we watched the buses that first departed return to school. The visibility was essentially below zero and no one was going anywhere, especially on rapidly accumulating rural roads.
I was at school until Thursday morning. Sleeping was allowed on carpeted floors, desks and cafeteria tables. Food arrived from local grocery stores and staff never left the building. This blast was part of the weather event now called the Blizzard of 71 which covered primarily London-Middlesex, Huron and Perth Counties. Medway High School north of London enrolled students from Lucan and other small rural communities and subsequently hosted many overnight guests.
Six years later Mitchell District High School was closed for a week due to a storm now remembered as the Blizzard of 1977. There is a pattern emerging here – Ontario storms are named simply by the year they landed.
The 1977 event is probably best recalled in the Niagara Region where snowfall hit record and frightening levels. We were on the fringes of the most severe weather, however based on past experiences such as 1971, local school officials did not want a repeat experience. I was 16 years old and my dad found many activities (or work) on the farm to ensure I was never bored.
There are probably many stories like mine from residents across Waterloo Region. They are as much a part of rural education as classrooms.
All the best for 2021 and stay safe over the holidays.
Written by Art Sinclair