They plead, they demand, they despair.
Whenever snow is predicted, Alexandria students begin an e-mail lobbying campaign aimed at the one person with the power to grant them liberty for a day: School Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry.
"Since you ARE the one in charge, we're always open when it's snowing or freezing," one angst-ridden teenager wrote after an early December snowfall, adding that her walk to T.C. Williams High School in the snow leaves her with sodden feet and trousers. "I have to spend a miserable day there until I go back out and trudge down the hill, trying not to slip and wishing desperately that you could feel my pain and suffering next time you decide not to cancel, despite severely inclement weather."
Another student made a weepy appeal: "School tomorow [sic] makes me go :(. You don't want me to cry do you? If we have school I'm gonna cry and if I cry, I'm blaming you."
There are those messages that get right to the point: "Please cancel school tomorrow, because it is very unsafe outside and you wouldn't want us to get hurt would you? Thanks."
And even more to the point: "DELAY, DELAY, DELAY, DELAY, DELAY"
Perry, who maintains an online forum that allows parents and students to contact her on various issues, said she doesn't mind the missives.
"I'm also a mother -- I've heard these lines before," said Perry, who has five children and stepchildren, all of them grown beyond their snow-day days.
She is not alone among school officials when it comes to student and parental input on the weather.
"They offer their opinions freely," said Loudoun County school spokesman Wayde Byard. In the rural west, parents wonder why school isn't canceled, he said, and in the populous east, where neighborhood schools abound, they wonder why it is.
"We also have the hopeful students writing in after midnight asking if school is still on," Byard said.
Montgomery County school spokesman Brian Porter said snow-day pleas and complaints dropped substantially -- but didn't disappear -- after officials started to make earlier decisions about closing. "We still get a number of parents who complain or offer their support," Porter said. "It doesn't matter which decision we make."
In Alexandria, Perry said her top priority is student safety, and she consults the highway and transportation departments before deciding. Sometimes, she takes her own test-drive on the roads. Unlike hilly Arlington or expansive Fairfax counties, the Alexandria school district is more manageable in bad weather, she said, and has used only one of the three snow days built into the annual calendar.
Perry said she finds most of the e-mail amusing, although some defy logic and common sense.
"Can you guess why I don't like you?" a student wrote -- anonymously, of course. "(hint: it might have something to do with going to school trying to drive with my head out the window because the layer of ice on my windshield didn't come off!)"
"I wanted to respond, 'Defrost the car, scrape your window,' " Perry said.
She did respond to the student who sent her this message: "Suggestion: CLOSE SCHOOL FRIDAY, we are sick of being the only school open on snow days, st stephens is allready off and i'm not surprized if more are, please dear god just close school."
Perry's response? "I am not God, you are going to school, and your spelling seems to indicate that you need to stay a little bit longer."