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Planning in Advance for School Closings and Sick Days

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

In addition to their primary educational function, schools serve a secondary child care function. This is to say, during the period of time when children are in school, the school is responsible for their welfare, and parents are free to do the things they need to do such as work to support the family. When children cannot be at school for whatever reason, responsibility for children's welfare and care falls back upon children's parents and caregivers. For this reason, parents are wise to develop a plan for how they will handle school closings (scheduled and unscheduled), and days when children are too sick to attend school.

hand making a listSchools close for various reasons, planned and unplanned. Most all schools schedule periodic breaks lasting for anywhere between a single day (e.g., to honor a religious or civic holiday or for administrative purposes such as a parent-teacher conference day) to several months duration (e.g., winter, spring and summer breaks). In areas that receive snow or severe storms, schools may close unexpectedly and without notice due to weather-related safety hazards. As well, children who are too sick to attend school may be ordered home so that the school can protect those students who remain well from contagion.

Parents handle school closings and sick days in different ways. Many working parents arrange their own work vacations to coincide with scheduled school holidays. When synchronized vacation time is not an option, some parents will negotiate with employers to be able to work from home (aka, to telecommute) so that they can be present to supervise children at least minimally. Still other parents will arrange hours with a childcare provider or baby-sitter. Families that cannot afford to pay for these types of arrangements must come up with alternative plans for providing care such as swapping care days with other parents or enlisting the help of other family members who have flexible time to offer.

Some schools, YMCA's, and community recreation centers offer school-break "camp" experiences or extended care-hours during scheduled breaks so as to provide children with a safe, supervised, fun, enriched experience when they are not in school. There are many camp experiences available for school-aged youth during the summer, as well. More about choosing summer camps can be found our article on Child Nurturance and Enrichment.


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