COVID-19 muddies the future of snow days

Maisie Derlega

One of my earliest memories is waking up on a winter morning, looking outside, and seeing everything covered in white. I had seen snow before, but this was different. When I came downstairs, I looked through my back door at my porch. I looked with fascination at the frost creeping up the glass like some sort of fungus. The snow looked so tall to my little self – when I tell this story I always say that it was one or two feet, but looking back it couldn’t have been more than seven or eight inches. In an eager voice I looked at my mother in excitement and asked the singular question that every child yearns to ask: “Is school cancelled?” With a sigh and maybe a hint of a smile she confirmed that, yes, DCPS had shut down school that day. 

But this winter, the question that everyone will be asking is something that I’ve asked myself for the past couple of years. “What is going to happen to snow days?” My query has usually been about the fact that our planet is warming quickly and that each year, DC has been getting less and less snow anyway. But now, the fact that we are getting more experienced in virtual school, the idea of having snow days may be pointless. We no longer need to be in person to have school, which could mean that snow days are gone forever. We might never again experience the giddiness and magic of a school day cancelled for snow. DCPS students will have no choice but to continue on working when the perfect winter day comes to us: instead of sledding down snowy slopes, we’ll be finding the slope of x. 

This brings up other questions: now that students and teachers are familiar with distance learning, is there any real reason not to educate kids from home when the weather is bad? According to the Washingtonian magazine, Montgomery County school superintendent Jack Smith made it clear that he wants to ditch snow days even after the pandemic ends. “This digital experience is never going to go away entirely,” he said. “We don’t want it to, because even in the best world, I don’t ever want to have a snow day again. I don’t think there is any excuse for it again—to have to make up a snow day.”

A snow day – less world may sound terrifying, but fear not – there’s still hope. In New Jersey, school administrations have stalked out a firm pro-snow day stance. According to the Washington Post, “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,” the Mahwah Township Public School District said in a statement back in October. “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.” 

When I asked Principal Martin on her snow-day stance, she made it clear that there is not yet a clear answer, stating that, “I’m not 100% sure about this, but this is what I think. Yes, I imagine we might still have snow days because “snow days” impact many essential workers (custodians, administrators, DC government workers), not just students and teachers. If travel were compromised due to unsafe weather conditions, the Chancellor and Mayor could call a snow day so that the essential workers would not have to drive to their work locations.” This, if it proves true, it is great news for snow day lovers! 

My entire childhood is filled with memories of snow days, and they’ve always held an important place in my heart. Now, with teachers and students becoming more and more comfortable with online schooling, who knows if they will stand the test of time. Perhaps our “new normal” will whisk this wonderful tradition away. For now – let’s hope for the possibility of just a few cold, magical, snowy days this year.