As most Omaha schoolchildren got to laze about on yet another snow day, Boys Town High senior Chanel Wright strapped on her backpack and went to school.
Like any other school day, Chanel had algebra and computer class, religion and health occupations. She had the circulatory system in physiology, Nathaniel Hawthorne in English and the clash between the monarchy and parliament in Western Civilization.
“Cromwell. Cromwell — circle him. You’re going to need to know him,” Chanel’s Western Civ teacher said around 10:15 Wednesday morning — a time when Chanel’s peers across town were decidedly not circling Oliver Cromwell. Instead, they were probably sleeping. Or binge-watching Netflix. Or trying to beat the sledding rush at Memorial Park.
None of that was in the cards Wednesday for Chanel and some 350 other students at Boys Town’s middle and high schools in Omaha. When you live on a school campus, a snow day is downright mythological. You hear about snow days — but they only seem to exist in a parallel universe.
So kids at Boys Town don’t watch the news scroll of school cancellations. They don’t put off homework. They don’t hunt for chocolate chips and Christmas sleds.
They do push their alarms back a couple hours. Starting last year, Boys Town decided to delay its first bell on snow days by two hours to give faculty, who don’t live on campus, time to arrive.
So instead of rising at 6:30 a.m. to be in Western Civ by 8 sharp, Chanel on Wednesday got to sleep in until almost 9. The first bell was at 10.
“I woke up to a half-day,” she said, adding that it was her birthday and a good way to start her first day at age 18. “I’m not complaining.”
Neither did a handful of her classmates, who seemed sincere when they said they liked going to school and didn’t feel like they missed out.
“It would drive me crazy,” said Austin LeBron, 17, imagining all that down time.
“I get to hang out with my friends,” said Arturo Reyes, 17.
Austin, Arturo and Chanel live in family houses with house parents and other youths who are a range of ages. School gives them a chance to see their classmates and be immersed in subjects like the English Civil War. Then they are not thinking about the often sad reasons that may have brought them to Boys Town.
“On the weekends, everybody is anxious to get back to school,” Chanel said.
That can be fairly universal. In an oh-so-scientific study of my Facebook feed, the back-to-back snow-day reaction went from a Snoopy happy dance Monday night to ‘Now what?’ by Wednesday.
There’s another reason the Boys Town group was so diplomatic: They did get a snow day on Tuesday!
It was the kind of Halley’s Comet occurrence so rare that no one could say when — or if, in the school’s 98-year history — Boys Town had ever called off school because of snow.
“When was the last time we had a snow day?” Arturo asked Bob Reznicek, Boys Town’s superintendent.
The superintendent paused.
“Long time,” he answered. “Maybe not even ever. I shouldn’t say ever, but it’s been ages.”
Reznicek made the decision to call off school around dinnertime Monday, when it appeared that the whole city was going to shut down. Forecasts were calling for a blizzard, and city officials were pleading with motorists to stay off the roads.
“We didn’t want to put our staff at risk,” Reznicek told me later, adding that some teachers live in Lincoln and western Iowa.
He sent an email to faculty and house parents, and the news caught students so off-guard that they didn’t believe it.
Antoine Thompson, 17, didn’t trust this surprising news. So when this mythological snow day came Tuesday, Antoine was up at 7 a.m. with his backpack ready.
The boys basketball team got the news Monday night, on the bus ride back from their trouncing of Ashland-Greenwood. Rodney Rosier, point guard, screamed and clapped right along with everyone else, until he considered that it might not be real.
Austin, the basketball team manager and a 5½-year Boys Town resident, also figured that it couldn’t be true.
“I just kind of sat there and looked at the ground,” he said. “Somebody’s lying. We ALWAYS have school.”
But on Tuesday, they didn’t. On Tuesday, Boys Town had a snow day like everyone else. And don’t think for two seconds that they didn’t enjoy it. Chanel watched a ton of HGTV and made cookies. Antoine went to the movies and saw “Ride Along 2.” Arturo had a “huge” snowball fight. Austin had a special brunch and studied for his driver’s license exam.
Rodney didn’t get off the couch. “I was going to make a snowman,” he said. “But I was too lazy.”
So these kids got their snow day Tuesday.
And on Wednesday they got Western Civ, and teacher John English tried to cover a lot of ground in a shortened, 28-minute class.
“We made it, guys,” Mr. English declared with just a few minutes to spare. “Now it’s time for me to hand out your homework.”