This year, snow days are causing heated discussions like never before.
I have heard of school districts that have decided there will be no snow days at all. Instead, on days when kids and teachers are unable to go to school in person because of snowstorms, everyone will do remote learning. Other districts have come to the decision that snow days will be snow days.
A few weeks ago, my children’s school sent a parent survey about exactly this. I filled out the survey immediately, stating my preference that snow days be snow days. I tried to consider why we would do it any other way.
The thing is, this is not just about my situation, in my house, with my variables. This is a community issue. A collective issue. Like so many things this year have been. And we need to consider all the angles before rushing to a conclusion.
Does it seem like a bit of a silly issue to be debating? Perhaps. But it comes down to what so many decisions this year have come down to. Who is affected, how are they affected, and is the alternative better or not?
Who is affected, and how so?
In a typical year, with kids attending school in person, a snowstorm can prevent children, teachers, and school staff from safely going to school. The district makes the call to ensure everyone is safe and able to stay home.
In this scenario, adults who typically work outside the home may be inconvenienced. Some employers might close the office so the adults can have a day off. What I have seen happen more often, though, is employers allowing their employees to stay home on the snow day but requiring them to put in a full day from home. And this is in addition to shoveling snow and taking care of the kids!
When it comes to the teachers, snow days might mean being home with their own children and also still having to shovel snow (and perhaps help an elderly neighbor, for example). Let’s not assume that when there are snow days our kids’ teachers are sitting at home all day watching TV and eating snacks.
Now let’s imagine what it might be like to require all students and teachers to engage in remote learning during a snowstorm this year.
In my children’s school district, about 20% of the children have been learning remotely since the beginning of the school year; the rest have been going in person since late September. If all the students have to switch to remote learning for a day or two of a blizzard, this means the kids who have not been remote learning have to figure out how to do so with little preparation. The parents who have not been juggling their work and their kids’ learning have to somehow find a way to do so or take time off work. The teachers who have been struggling to find a balance between teaching in person and trying to provide quality remote learning as well now have to all of a sudden do a full day or two of remote learning on short notice.
And then, how long do you keep them learning remotely? How do you coordinate siblings with different schedules? How do parents keep up with a job that is still requiring the same level of productivity?
I know that those who have been learning remotely have had to figure out the best way to handle these questions. I do not want to take away from your challenges, but you have had some time for trial and error; the families whose children have been going to school in person should not be expected to when we are used to having snow days and planning the school year with some extra days built into the calendar just in case.
Is there a better alternative?
I cannot speak for everyone, but my experience here in New England is that children (and often the parents too) love that first snow day. I grew up in the tropics, but I remember in college here in Massachusetts waking up during a blizzard to watch the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen to see if school was canceled. I lived on campus, and we would all get super excited about snow days.
We have all gone through a lot recently. Our lives have changed drastically, and our kids have not been able to do everything they’re used to. School is vastly different even for those who are attending in person, but especially for the kids learning remotely. Shouldn’t we all band together to let ourselves and our kids enjoy this one thing?
Will it make that much of a difference in our kids’ education to have a handful of snow days, as they usually have each winter? I do not think it will have a negative impact. Quite the opposite, in fact. I think it will bring back some normalcy. Some of what they are used to and expect during the winter months each year.
A letter from a superintendent in West Virginia has been making the rounds on social media recently, and his announcement that school will be closed for a true snow day has resonated with me.
“So please, enjoy a day of sledding and hot chocolate and cozy fires. Take pictures of your kids in snow hats they will outgrow by next year and read books that you have wanted to lose yourself in, but haven’t had the time. We will return to the serious and urgent business of growing up on Thursday, but for tomorrow… go build a snowman.”
Whatever your experience ends up being, mama, I hope it works out for you. Make the best of it — your kids will continue to thrive!