Thank you for the snow day


In the past couple of weeks, we’ve been getting a lot of something we haven’t seen much of over the past couple of years: snow.
So much, in fact, that schools in our communities had no choice but to close. And because of that, we have just one thing to say to our school districts in Nassau County: Thank you for the snow day.

Yes, education works best when it’s rigorous and on a schedule. If the young minds loading buses each day were robots, then we’d probably be hesitant to interrupt the routine. Thankfully, our children are living, breathing people. And all of us can use a break from time to time — especially one we didn’t expect.

Anyone who grew up in a climate susceptible to winter almost assuredly experienced at least one snow day in their life, if not several. They go all the way back to the 19th century, when schools became gathering points children would flock to — and where safety would become paramount.

In places like Long Island, where crews are adept at clearing roads, even the best can be overwhelmed by significant storms and heavy snowfalls. And while it might feel like a free day off for many of our young learners, nearly all school districts have built snow days into the schedule — meaning any unexpected days off will be made up later in the spring.

We here on Long Island understand the value of snow days, but not everyone shares those values. In fact, there is a growing contingent of education leaders right in our backyard who have been working hard to wipe snow days from existence.

It’s not that New York City has it out for an occasional unscheduled school closing. It’s just that the city’s education department has capitalized on the expansion of technology necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, which made remote learning for all not just possible, but practical.

For the 1.1 million students who attend more than 1,800 schools in the city, instead of sitting inside a classroom to learn on days when it snows, they are sitting in their living rooms and bedrooms instead. All while other people their age, living just a few miles away, grab their snowsuits and sleds and enjoy the winter beauty Mother Nature has delivered.
Learning is important, but snow days are valuable. Quite valuable, in fact. Beyond safety, they provide a much-needed mental health break — not just for students, but also for the adults responsible for their learning.

The pressure of academic demands and extracurricular activities can be intense. That can lead not just to stress, but even to burnout.

Snow days give all of us a chance to recharge and relax with some unscheduled playtime outdoors. And that’s important, too. We hear too much about how video games, computers and television keep so many of our kids indoors. But freshly fallen snow is irresistible, and will almost assuredly get them outside to have some fun. It’s good for their physical health in a way that sitting in front of a computer, watching a teacher on Zoom, just can’t provide.

And a snow day is a chance to build community. Families come together to shovel sidewalks, or maybe help neighbors in need. Children get together, working to build snow forts, or even a snowman, complete with a carrot nose and a top hat.

And who doesn’t love an impromptu snowball fight?

All of that comes with many parents still working remotely, which helps mitigate child-care issues and costs that might otherwise accompany snow days.

Just remember that these days are not breaks for everyone. Let’s not forget the municipal workers who wake up early to plow the snow, as well as the brave souls at utility companies, hospitals, and fire and police departments who, as first responders, are always prepared for the worst.

Each one of our children will spend more than 1,200 days in class through high school. Let them have a break. And let’s show New York City yet another reason why more and more people choose to live and work here on Long Island.

Because on Long Island, snow days are cool.