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Wednesday snow day seemed all but certain on January 21 as snowfall made its gains in the late morning and accumulated throughout the day. Following a snow day only three weeks before, students viewed Snowstorm Janus, which was accompanied by RealFeel temperatures of four degrees and 35 mph winds, as another opportunity for a break from classes. Despite reports that this storm would be more intense than the last, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña opted to officially keep city schools open the next day because roads would have been cleared by then.
Although after school clubs and PSAL activities were cancelled on Tuesday afternoon, many students struggled to get home as commutes extended far beyond their usual lengths. Students taking public transportation home had grievous complaints against the MTA, which were frequently expressed as Facebook statuses. Some waited several hours for a bus.
Junior Gerald Mariscal, who lives in the Bronx, usually travels home by the Q44 before crossing the Whitestone Bridge. “It was such a hassle getting on the bus that I decided to take the Q25,” adding that “it was so crowded on the bus that I regret the decision.”
Freshman Leo Rodriguez was waiting for the Q44, with buses running off schedule and packed to capacity. He took matters into his own hands, stating, “Two buses that said ‘next bus please’ passed…I got fed up and [when I saw] the next bus that came [that] said ‘next bus please’ I got down on my knees and begged them to let me in.”
The Q64 bus service was so slow that junior Karen Su and her friends decided to walk the 2.6 miles (over forty minutes) home to Forest Hills, and ended up beating the bus route.
“It was a horrible but interesting experience,” recalled Karen. “However, I felt that it was completely unnecessary that we had to experience it. An early dismissal could’ve been more appropriate, and safer.”
Freshman Maressa Cumbermack, who also walked with Karen, agreed that it was an interesting experience, saying, “By the time we had walked only about half way we had to rely on one another to “pull” each other through the snow.”
Despite this, Maressa said that she was grateful to have three other people walking with her. “It made the experience a lot less painful,” she said.
A few students experienced a fellow classmate fainting. Danielle Morales, a freshman, said, “it turned out there was a girl who fainted on my bus. Probably from the cold. We had to evacuate the bus, because the paramedics had to come.” Junior Nana Dong also witnessed the scene: “Someone reported to the bus driver that this girl was having blackouts and the bus driver told all of us to get out. People were yelling at him.” The student who fainted was safely taken to the hospital with friends.
“I walked in the cold for an hour,” added junior Vijay Sookai. “It felt like an episode of Survivor.”
While some braved the inclement weather, others relented and decided to get rides from their parents.
Back at THHS, students who opted out of public transportation were also struggling to get home. As time passed, the roads proceeded to get worse, which caused most students’ parents to arrive late for pickup. By the time the students were picked up, traffic filled the highways, so some settled on taking the side roads, like senior Mumtaz Jaffer, who stated that the roads, “were not clean and conditions were dangerous.” This proved to be true for many other Harrisites driving home.
Freshman Katerina Jou agreed that car travel was more difficult than usual, though she felt lucky to be in a heated vehicle. “I was stuck on the highway for two-and-a-half hours. Although not one of the worst instances compared to other students’ experiences that day, it almost got to the level where it became unbearable. No cars were moving at all.”
Coordinator of Student Activities Aleeza Widman also expressed discontent with driving conditions: “I have a Prius. Usually it can travel 54 miles per gallon and on that day it was travelling 24 miles per gallon.”
As a result of these inconveniences, a majority of students felt that school should have been closed on January 22, with many students deciding to stay home rather than endure the commute to school. Although average NYC public school attendance rates are 90%, a mere 47.1% of students attended school citywide on January 22.
Freshman Caitlin Cassidy stated, “I didn’t do any homework and I didn’t even study because I was positive that we weren’t going have school.”
A lack of teachers and substitutes forced Principal Barbetta to make the decision to delay the school’s opening to 9:00 a.m. As Ms. Oberlander believes, “The delay [for the school day] was a good choice.”