Flushing ice cubes down the toilet. Putting a spoon under your pillow. Wearing your pj’s inside out. These are just some of the superstitions kids have been deploying for decades as they go to bed wishing for a snow day the next morning. But, with the onset of COVID-19 and remote learning, are snow days a thing of the past for school districts? As we are currently in the heart of a frigid winter, this debate has been heating up lately. There are pros and cons and precedents set by some of the biggest school districts in the country. We explore this issue further in this blog post.
In a national survey conducted by Education Week in November, 39% of principals and district leaders had converted snow days to remote learning days this year and another 32% were considering it. Those numbers will put a shiver down the spine of any school aged kid! Why are so many K-12 leaders willing to support or consider supporting this idea? Well, a lot of it has to do with the context of this past year.
The Argument For Replacing Snow Days with Remote Learning Days
In an article from the Boston Globe, Westport interim superintendent Thomas F. Aubin remarked that keeping kids in class is critical in light of the amount of learning loss they have experienced in the last year. He went on to remark that those days would be shortened remote days so that kids could still have fun outside. Another superintendent from the article has a very catchy saying on why he’s in favor of remote learning days instead of snow days. Bradford Jackson, superintendent at Shawsheen Technical High School in Billerica, MA, says, “Hate me in December, love me in June.” The implication being that if you don’t have to cancel school for snow days, you don’t need to add additional days at the end of the year to get the required amount of learning days in a school year.
In that same light, Education Week reported in another article that replacing remote learning days for snow days is a preferred option to extending school in the summer, where a lot of schools don’t have AC and the enthusiasm for learning is down.
Finally, as a Washington Post article points out, schools are better positioned than ever to have remote learning days, thanks to all of the new technology that has been needed to make remote and asynchronous learning a reality in this last year. When schools are already set up for distance learning, does it really matter what the weather is like outside?
The Argument for Keeping Snow Days
Is it really worth it to take another thing away from kids this year? The biggest argument for keeping snow days is really that of depriving kids the joy and excitement of having a day off from school. They already have had their extracurricular activities canceled, their sports leagues postponed, their social interactions at school removed. Mahwah Township Public Schools in New Jersey posted a sentimental statement in favor of snow days in October that went viral “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. These are times for memory-making, and we believe these types of opportunities should remain intact.”
There’s also the fact that in some cases, snow days pose serious threats on travel and even having power. Julie Hamilton, the superintendent of Holbrook Public School District explains in a USAToday article, “Teachers in Holbrook come from over 40 other towns which could lead to inconsistency around our ability to run remote instruction if those towns experience power outages.” In remote, rural areas where broadband access is not as prevalent, some teachers would still have to brave the snowy roads to travel into their schools in order to access their network.
So what's the verdict?
Ultimately, this boils down to a district by district decision. However, in the headlines we are seeing more of the larger school districts opt for remote days over snow days. Here’s some examples:
So what is your school district’s position? We would love to know. Join our Facebook user group to keep the conversation going.