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When The Principal Cancels School ... With A Song-And-Dance Number

Principal Brian McCann sings a snow-day tune in Swansea, Mass.
Principal Brian McCann sings a snow-day tune in Swansea, Mass.

A new musical duo is being hailed across the country as "brilliant" and "mesmerizing." One fan says their work "transcends all ages," and many more are begging them to go on tour.

But to do that, the singers would have to quit their day jobs. They're not professional musicians — they're school administrators in Michigan. Their breakout hit? A video announcing a snow day.

A video that's been viewed more than 700,000 times since it was posted Monday by the Swartz Creek district, southwest of Flint. In it, Superintendent Ben Mainka and Principal Jim Kitchen don sunglasses as they launch into a rewritten version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

Cancelling school is a tough decision for school administrators. It involves safety, disruption for families and lost learning time. In the past couple years, a trend has emerged where principals and superintendents soften the blow by announcing the news in ever more creative ways.

Swartz Creek's is just one of the videos that appeared this week as subzero temperatures and snow disrupt school across a wide swath of the country.

"It makes our kids smile, and it makes the community smile, and our parents smile," says Brett Hoesing, the superintendent in Missouri Valley, Iowa, a 700-student district in the western part of the state. A week ago, he released his latest single, a remix of "Uptown Funk," to declare a snow day. And this week, he broke the news that school was closed with a cover of George Michael's "Faith."

"It just kind of puts Missouri Valley on the map a little bit," he says.

Despite the fun videos, Hoesing says cancelling school is among the toughest decisions he has to make. He knows that some parents struggle to find last-minute childcare and have to stay home from work. And, he adds, some students rely on school for regular meals.

"It's kind of like, 'Hey, I know this isn't the best situation,' " he says. "But at least we can have a laugh over it."

In Swansea, Mass., Principal Brian McCann agrees. He starred last year in Joseph Case High School's rewritten version of "All That Jazz," complete with backup singers and dancers and lots of fake snow.

He says the video, which so far has more than 20,000 views, made people feel good about themselves, and about the school. So good, in fact, that McCann and his students have been working on another snow-day video. The song? McCann says it's top secret, but it's ready to go: "We cannot wait for the flakes to come down in southeastern Massachusetts!"

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.