Snow days: A thing of the past or a continued tradition?


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Before the pandemic, snow meant a possibility that there was no school for the day. But does the implementation of virtual learning spell the end of snow days?

For as long as current students can remember, closing school for a snow day has been a coveted experience for all. Whether it’s going sledding, building a snowman, or sipping hot chocolate while watching a movie, snow days have always been seen as a day to take a break and have some time for yourself.

For most educators, though, the motivation to close school due to inclement winter weather had solely been based on transportation issues, but in the new climate of virtual school, there are no transportation issues that need to be accounted for anymore. Many school systems, such as Cherry Hill, have used this aspect of virtual school to remain in school and increase instructional time, but the question must be raised: should the possibility of a day off due to snow be more than transportation issues when put into the consideration of school administrators?

A staggering minority of school districts throughout the country have given a resounding yes to this question, especially when taking into account the happiness and expectations of students. In October, the Mahwah school district in New Jersey created ripples nationwide when they announced that they would continue to close virtual school during snowstorms this year. Using its plan for predetermined snow days that most districts have, the district decided that there was room for three to five snow days in their schedule. Lisa Rizzo, the district’s director of special services, said that “the history of snow days is steeped within our culture,” acknowledging it as a sort of rite of passage for all students. She continued, explaining the multitude of school events and traditions that have been cancelled due to Covid-19 is so high that they cannot afford to lose another one.

Interim Superintendent Leonard Fitts also discussed giving something for students to look forward to, saying that they “will maintain the hope of children by calling actual snow days due to inclement weather.”
For the recent snowstorm that barraged the eastern United States with snow, the Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools in West Virginia, Bondy Shay Gibson, decided to give her nearly 9,000 students a day off. “It has been a year of seemingly endless loss and the stress of trying to make up for that loss,” Gibson said, expressing that for just a moment, people can let go of worry and make sure that kids will not lose this one piece of normalcy that we have left. “Some of that heaviness was suspended for just a day,” she said.

To add to this argument, a recent survey of 76 East students revealed that there may be merit to giving students a snow day, as 90.8% of respondents had felt overwhelmingly stressed or anxious recently because of school. Especially with the presence of Covid-19, students are under more pressure and stress than ever, and there is not much happening on a daily basis that brightens peoples’ days. “People are hungry for some joy,” said Gibson, “They want to see a light at the end of this tunnel.”

The implementation of the snow day by Gibson resulted in a torrent of videos, photos, and texts of people whose lives had been touched by Gibson’s actions. She received pictures of children opening early Christmas presents, kids playing in the snow with their puppy, sledding, and families bonding. While Gibson pointed out the need to make up lost time, she emphasized the importance of the recovery of lost emotional and social connections of not only students, but parents and staff as well.

Even though transportation issues were the most important factor in issuing snow days before, the new perspective that it is an opportunity to bring some positivity to students’ days is gaining traction among schools nationwide as Covid-19 continues to disrupt normal functions.