Journalist and bestselling author Susan Orlean once described a snow day as “literally and figuratively” something that “falls from the sky — unbidden — and seems like a thing of wonder.”
Unless you grew up somewhere snow didn’t exist, you likely woke up many a winter morning as a child, excited to see nothing but glistening white outside your window that wasn’t there the night before. That almost guaranteed the one thing nearly all schoolkids hope for during the coldest months: a snow day.
But as part of the “new normal” created by the coronavirus pandemic, it seemed the snow day was becoming a relic of the past. Lockdowns closed schools, forcing millions of students across the country — and around the world — to turn to technology. Thanks to computers, web cams and the internet, lessons could continue without the need to step inside a classroom.
As the pandemic subsided and schools reopened, many school administrations wondered aloud why newfound resources like Zoom had to go. And somewhere, the idea was born to use the remote classrooms set up during the pandemic to keep schools operating on days where weather made it impossible to step onto campus.
That meant no more snow days — a concept that, at least for several school districts in Nassau County, was short-lived. While not ignoring the benefits of remote learning, these districts decided to keep at least some snow days in place, believing that there are benefits to providing that unexpected day off for their students and teachers.
It’s difficult to determine how — and when — the modern snow day came into being, except that it likely required the means to communicate a delay or cancellation — telephones or radios. Today, such alerts are spread through more direct means, like text messages and email.
But the excitement those alerts generate is almost certainly no different in 2022 than it was in 1922.
And what other severe weather event could kids enjoy more than freshly fallen snow — and a lot of it? Sledding, for example, is a pastime no one young or old should be denied. Or building snowmen. Or constructing snow forts. Or creating snow angels.
Sorry, but those are things kids simply can’t do if they are required to sit in front of their computers all day. And let’s not forget that virtual classrooms are no longer the norm — imagine all the wasted time that will be spent getting all the students logged back in effectively, when many are simply out of practice doing so.
It’s not that education isn’t important — it is. But a snow day isn’t a lost day. It’s a delayed day. Any class missed because of snow in the winter months is made up in the spring. And if Mother Nature is kind and doesn’t interfere with classes, those spring days become time off for students and teachers anyway.
All of us deserve a pleasant surprise, like a snow day, once in a while. And all of us deserve a chance to enjoy the world around us, even if it’s just for a day here and there.
New York City has completely done away with snow days, but the city should follow Long Island’s lead. Sure, there are fewer snow days than there were before the pandemic, but our districts are working hard to balance the need to educate with their students’ need to just live sometimes. And they are doing the right thing with a hybrid model that essentially splits the difference.
Keep the snow days. At least some of them. They’re not just a thing of wonder, but a chance to create lasting memories, and a fresh appreciation of the value of an unexpected breather.