Closing during the snow a good call [editorial]

The idea that the show must go on is an honorable sentiment held by many in the entertainment world.

Famously, and tragically, the musicians aboard the Titanic set up on the deck of the sinking ship and played "Nearer to Thee My God," presumably to soothe the souls of the doomed. The motivation for the performance was never able to be determined as the musicians went down with the ship.

But the show went on.

It's an extreme example, and possibly one that gives a little bit of insight into why the Harford Ballet Company was so distressed by the decision by Harford County Public Schools to close school buildings last weekend even before snow started to fall. The result was that performances of the ballet company's Christmastime mainstay "The Nutcracker" ended up being canceled.

Thus, the ballet company's response to the cancellation comes across as a bit harsh: "It was not HBC's decision to cancel the show dates, but rather the decision of the Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) to close all schools and cancel all scheduled events in case of inclement weather. Too little lead time is available to identify alternate venues, and since most other venues in Harford county suitable for having the production are also public schools, these venues will also be closed due to HCPS's decision."

The ballet company's reaction notwithstanding, Harford County Public Schools made the right decision in closing school buildings on the threat of substantial snow, even though not much of it materialized. Certainly, it was a weekend and the argument could be made that had the show gone on, ballet ticket holders would not have been forced to brave the snow to attend. Furthermore, closing schools on the weekend didn't take any school buses off the streets.

The reality is, however, the school system has a responsibility to use good judgment when it comes to opening its facilities for leisure time activities, be they ballet performances or basketball games. For many years, the school system has taken the approach of erring on the side of caution when making the call on whether to close because of the weather.

It's a safe, solid and, above all, the smart approach to a situation that can be expected to arise several times each year. It would be a bad practice for the school system to become more cavalier about its decision-making on bad weather closings.

Feelings may have been hurt, but no injuries resulted from the school system's decision to close because of a forecast of a storm. Had the snow materialized the way it did the previous week, that may not have been the case.

It's also worth pointing out that the school system would be ill-advised to do something implied in the ballet company's response to the closing decision, namely to have consulted the ballet company (or, presumably, a wrestling coach or a concert promoter) when making decisions about whether to close. While school officials aren't necessarily experts on the weather or road conditions, they are, as a whole, more experienced in making decisions about closing up shop because of the weather than dancers, coaches or show directors.

The show is scheduled to go on with two performances crammed into one evening Friday, Dec. 20.

It's a shame "The Nutcracker" performance planned for last weekend had to be canceled, with only one day to make up two days worth of performances, and it's unfortunate that some of the people who had planned to attend will not be able to secure refunds, but it's hardly a tragic outcome.

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