Communitech photo: Kayleigh PlatzCold-weather policies need some red-hot innovation Kayleigh Platz February 25, 2015 Columns, Ecosystem, Tech About Town I took last Friday off. It was a lazy day to run errands, do some chores and hit the grocery store before the weekend rush. It was brisk out so I bundled up. Hat. Mitts. Scarf. Boots. My warm jacket. As I made my way through the city, I noticed a lot of children and teens in each store I went in. Teenagers walked along Fairway Road with food from McDonalds in their hands. Chicopee Ski Club looked busy as I drove by. It struck me as odd that schools were closed due to the cold. Then on Monday, in accordance with new school-board rules, schools stayed open on a similarly frigid morning. The difference? One degree. The Waterloo Region district school board has a new policy that that calls for all classes to be cancelled if the daily temperature is forecasted to be -35 C at 7 a.m. The rationale seems to make sense, until you realize that places in Canada, like Winnipeg, with far colder temperatures don’t cancel busses until temperatures hit -45 C. Even then, schools remain open. Automatically closing schools for fear of the cold, and what could happen, isn’t an innovative solution. We can do better than that. Entrepreneurs are, by default, problem solvers. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if some of my favourite problem solvers had approached their problems differently. What if Larry Page and Sergey Brin solved the search issue by making a larger encyclopedia. What if Eric Migicovsky stopped developing his idea after his smart watch plan failed to attract venture capital. We probably wouldn’t have Google or the Pebble smart watch. Page, Brin and Migicovsky wouldn’t have been solving the right problem. I think that’s what we’re doing right now with the Waterloo Region’s cold-weather policy. Suppose, as a community, we approached problems the way entrepreneurs do. What if we found a solution that taught youth to be safe in a climate that is apparently going to be seeing much more extreme weather in the future? “Closing schools [because of weather] is not a solution,” said Paul Donald, founder of Encircle and father of two daughters. He believes parents should be able to take their children to school or have them log in online; but there shouldn’t be an option to miss a day of school in today’s connected world just because the weather isn’t ideal. While the policy is in place to protect children and crossing guards from the danger of severe cold, it doesn’t really help our children. In only encourages a generation to fear the cold. These kind of policies don’t teach our children about innovation, or how to problem-solve — key definers of entrepreneurship. John Beresford, co-founder at Eventpeeks, and father of a young daughter, grew up in rural villages in Newfoundland. School closed when the mercury hit -60 C. He remembers downhill-ski training at -50 C. “The problem isn’t the weather,” Beresford said. “We can’t solve that. The problem is our schools are inaccessible.” School policy, he believes, focuses on an unfixable risk issue. Closing schools during cold weather protects the school board from any wrongdoing, but limits students access to education. “School-aged children should learn, even if they can’t make it to the physical school house,” he said. I rarely remember schools being closed due to the cold as a child. I do remember learning about the dangers of cold, and being taught how to dress properly by my teachers and parents. And if I did stay home from school by chance, my mum always brought out math exercise books and activity books. She always made those “play days” teachable. *** Ring out the dreariest month of the year with some card games and dancing this weekend. I see and hear that… this Thursday, Feb. 26, is the K-W Poker Chicks game night. Your $15 ticket gets you your buy-in to the tournament, snacks and wine. Never played before? That’s OK. Lessons start at 7 p.m., followed by a guest lecture. The tournament starts at 8 p.m. at the EY offices, 515 Riverbend Dr., Kitchener . . . This Saturday, Feb. 28, THEMUSUEM is back with Studio 54. The annual fundraiser is a crowd favourite. Costumes are highly encouraged for the fun-filled event. This year’s theme is “Saints and Sinners.” Tickets are $150 each, or $100 for the under-35 crowd. I’ll see you out with my dancing shoes on at THEMUSEM, 10 King St. W., Kitchener… The Brew Over design networking event is a meet-up for designers and all creative types. The event starts at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 3 at The Order, 56 King St. N., Waterloo (corner of Princess Street). You can browse work by local artists, connect with fellow makers, and buy some drinks.