Schools Switch Up Snow Day Policies in the Era of COVID — What Parents Should Know
Some school districts have nixed snow days so as not to sacrifice instructional time, while others are sticking by the tradition in the name of nostalgia and mental health
With students now used to learning from home, schools across the country are working to determine their approach to snow days.
While some have said snow days will become a thing of the past so as not to sacrifice precious instructional time, others are sticking by the tradition in the name of nostalgia and mental health. (And even snow day staples like Campbell's have a stake in the game, with their Save the Snow Day initiative - they're sending special snow day kits to the first 3,000 people to sign a pledge to observe snow days, even if we're stuck at home.)
“We have decided that few childhood acts remain unchanged due to COVID-19 and we will maintain the hope of children by calling actual snow days due to inclement weather,” Dr. Leonard Fitts, the interim superintendent of Mahwah Township Public Schools in New Jersey, wrote in an October email, NJ.com reported.
“Snow days are chances for on-site learners and virtual learners to just be kids by playing in the snow, baking cookies, reading books, and watching a good movie,” he added.
Hundreds of miles away in Michigan, Mona Shore Public Schools took a similar approach, opting to keep their six allotted snow days this year to maintain normalcy for students, MLive reported.
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“For us, it was really a no-brainer to just say, unless the legislature tells us any differently, this is what we’re going to do,” Superintendent Bill O’Brien told the outlet. “Snow days are a chance for us to say we are keeping one thing the same, one thing that you can look forward to… We know that by keeping these days we are keeping the focus on doing what is best for kids.”
Michigan law reportedly states that school districts can be forgiven for six days of closures due to extenuating circumstances like weather and power outages before they have to make up any days.
Still, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education told MLive that the department did not expect schools with all-virtual instruction to request any snow days, as students and teachers are equipped for and used to remote learning.
That sentiment was one taken by New York City, the country’s largest school system, in September, when they canceled snow days for the rest of the school year.
The intention was to “maximize our students’ instructional time,” the city's Department of Education said, according to WABC.
That was the same goal the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado adopted when they canceled snow days for the rest of the year this week, despite previously granting one on Oct. 26, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
Though parents are still able to opt students out of a remote learning day without penalty, district spokeswoman Kerri McDermid told the outlet that they hoped to “mitigate any further days of lost instructional time due to inclement weather or other unexpected building closures.”
Over in Massachusetts, the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education left the decision up to each individual school district, while emphasizing that any district that chooses to have snow days must make up the day later, according to WBZ.
Holyoke Public Schools chose to enact “Remote Learning Snow Days,” which count as instructional days so that no additional days will be required in June, MassLive reported.
Though support for the issue remains divided, teachers like Denis Anglim in Philadelphia say they understand the reasons for canceling snow days, but will certainly mourn them.
“For the sake of continuity of the curriculum, it’s a good thing. But not in terms of hanging on to the nostalgia of waking up at 5 a.m. and looking at the ticker of the bottom of the television to see if your school will be closed,” Anglim, a high school English and history teacher, told The New York Times.