B&G: Should snow days be eliminated when we return to school?
December 2, 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery County Public Schools had to shift all learn to a virtual setting. Investing in infrastructures like Zoom, MYMCPS Canvas, and Synergy, everything students needed to learn and succeed was provided on their internet browser. This virtual setup has made some wonder whether or not future snow days (once we have returned to in-person school) should be replaced by virtual classes. Reading the following two articles to understand both perspectives on the issue.
Fundamental to our childhood, snow days should be here to stay
There is no feeling quite like a snow day. Waking up late and looking out of your window to see a blanket of white covering the neighborhood is a quintessential childhood memory. However, with Montgomery County Public School’s (MCPS) shift to online learning as the primary education form during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a debate surrounding the abolishment of snow days in favor of online school days. Considering the potential consequences, MCPS should not get rid of snow days once in-person learning resumes.
Several logistical hurdles will arise if MCPS decides to discontinue snow days. In the current online learning system, schools have loaned a Chromebook to every student who requested one, providing devices to students that had no other way to access the internet. After the COVID-19 crisis is over, students will have to readjust to a physical learning environment and return their Chromebooks. Science teacher Akshay Gandhi said, “how would we distribute [Chromebooks] back to people on a less than 24-hour notice of a snow day?”
If snow days are replaced with online learning days, it is unlikely that MCPS would be able to quickly and efficiently redistribute materials. This would leave many low-income students without access to the same resources and aid that they currently do, making it impossible to attend class. Additionally, the heavy precipitation that leads to snow days often causes power outages throughout the county. Since not all students have reliable internet access or technology, especially when their electricity goes down, mandatory attendance on “cyber” snow days would be unreasonable and creates undue stress.
Sophomore Diya Britto said, “I would worry about missing out on work that I couldn’t go to because of internet access.” Many students, namely disadvantaged ones with working parents, also have other family responsibilities on snow days. For these students, even if they did have ways to attend Zoom classes, absences would skyrocket due to their out-of-school commitments.
Along with the logistical difficulties that students would be subjected to, teachers would also struggle as not all lessons are easily convertible to an online platform. English teacher Jeremy Koenig said, “usually when snow days hit, it’s somewhat of a surprise. Teachers don’t have stuff prepared for online. They’re two different things, [and] to just think that online instruction is just a very easy switch when you need to is not how it works.” Unless a teacher makes two versions of a lesson plan daily, one for an online setting and another for in-person, it is infeasible to replace snow days with virtual ones.
Unfortunately, even if teachers did make two lesson plans in case of an emergency, activities like science labs and group discussion are only possible in physical school. These types of lessons are fundamental to a student’s education. If a snow day occurs and classes must be moved online for a day or two, these lessons would not be postponed, rather eliminated because virtual school days are expected to replace, not supplement, physical school.
Another argument to consider is the social aspect of snow days. For generations, snow days have allowed students to have fun and unwind from an otherwise stressful school week. Goofing off with siblings and watching cartoons while knowing that without the snow day, you would be stuck in school, is a much-needed blissful feeling. This will be taken away if online school replaces days that should be used for sledding and making new neighborhood friends.
Snow days also provide unique benefits for high schoolers. Many teenage students are under constant stress from heavy workloads, advanced classes and extracurriculars. Snow days serve as one of the few ways to recuperate from the exhausting school system. Britto said, “snow days are a good way to destress. There are definitely benefits when it comes to mental health, and when it is a snow day and when it is snowing, you want to go outside and not sit in front of a laptop all day.”
Every year, schools push more work onto their students, and snow days are one of the only chances to take a true break without worrying about absences and missed work. It is unfair to expect students to sign onto a digital learning space during snow days, just as it is unfair to make teachers scramble to create new lesson plans and teach online. Although having snow days can take away instructional time, abolishing snow days in favor of mandatory online school is not the right move as it is logistically infeasible and would take away the opportunity to make lasting memories. The nostalgia that comes with snow days is unique and taking away the tradition is incomprehensible.
Snow days are irrelevant, online school is the way of the future
Snow days are often considered a nostalgic childhood necessity, but as educational infrastructure makes leaps and bounds in innovation, they no longer serve a purpose. Due to the success of virtual learning during the pandemic, many school systems are planning to get rid of snow days once in-person learning is resumed. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) should follow suit and replace snow days with online sessions when schools reopen.
After moving all education to a virtual setting for the first semester of this school year, MCPS has equipped itself with the necessary infrastructure to shift to online learning in the event of a weather emergency MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith, said “this digital experience is never going to go away entirely” in an article from FOX5DC. The transition to online school during this pandemic has given MCPS and other school systems across the nation the opportunity to cut snow days and ensure that students can receive continuous schooling.
Snow days are unnecessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, they will also be wasteful once MCPS is back in school buildings. Junior Rosemary Yang said “[I don’t] think it’s reasonable to take more time out of lesson-teaching.” Having snow days during in-person school takes away valuable instructional days, resulting in teachers rushing lessons which leads to a weaker understanding of the material for students. Snow days are detrimental to academic performance, are time-consuming and have negative impacts both on students and on staff.
In addition to impacting the day-to-day dynamics of school, snow days make it harder for teachers to prepare their students for standardized testing. Regardless of how many days are taken off due to weather events during the year, test dates for Advanced Placement courses, subject SATs, and International Baccalaureate exams are not pushed back, leaving students scrambling to review test material in a reduced timeframe. Often, teachers use time in class to provide beneficial preparation activities such as AP problems and essay practices. With snow days eating away at instructional time, these critical exercises are skipped over.
With the capacity for virtual learning, snow days will soon become nothing more than nostalgia since they had no significant benefits in the first place. Students, school administration and county officials alike agree with the sentiment that these days off have no educational value for students and do more harm than good. Senior Danesh Sivakumar said, “snow days are pretty much obsolete, like what’s the point?” According to the New York Times, New York City’s school system, which has already converted to a hybrid education model, canceled snow days for the year because of the lost instructional time due to the pandemic.
Art history teacher Michael McDermott said, “with the development of the virtual system, people no longer have to travel to work anymore. Snow days are done.” Some may argue that it is unreasonable to expect teachers to quickly adapt to online school for just a day, however, teachers at Richard Montgomery are able to send out recorded video-lessons early on snow days. There are many possible ways for teachers to continue education for students at a remote distance.
In recent years, MCPS has often been forced to extend the school year into the summer vacation in order to meet the state requirements for minimum instructional days. Having periodic days off during the school year may provide temporary relief for students and teachers, however, a long summer break is more favorable. Without snow days, students, teachers and other staff will be able to enjoy having longer summer breaks. While some may still hold onto the sentimentality of snow days, it is clear that its time has come to an end.
Before the pandemic and the need for an efficient virtual schooling system, getting two inches of snow would have canceled school in MCPS. This typically creates a great amount of stress for many parents who not only have to worry about their work but also now have to cater to their children’s needs. This burden is especially heavy when it comes to younger children who usually want to spend hours outside playing in the snow and must be closely watched to keep them safe. Having online classes keeps kids preoccupied and parents would not have to concern themselves constantly about their children’s safety.
Thanks to virtual school, snow days are no longer necessary, seeing as students and teachers can continue classes remotely using Zoom and other virtual learning resources. These momentary breaks from learning will always be a fond memory, but increasingly intensive curriculums make education a priority. And with the successful run of online schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no longer an excuse to not replace snow days. A blizzard? Bring it on— no one fears that sort of thing anymore.