As we approach another cold New York winter, a question lingers over most students’ heads: will we ever have a snow day? It is undeniable that every child looks forward to a week-day of sledding, building snowmen and sipping a mug of hot chocolate. However, this year, at-home remote learning is second nature, and snow days could look a little different—or cease to exist altogether.
Officials of The New York City Public Schools have already said that their students will not be the beneficiaries of snow days this year. The NYC Department of Education stated, “As we reopen schools for this critical school year, we are utilizing all of the lessons learned from remote schooling this spring to maximize our students’ instructional time. This includes providing remote instruction during both Election Day and snow days.”
It is possible that the Port Washington School District will follow this initiative, especially after postponing the start of school in September due to reopening planning.
In a year filled with uncertainty, one definite is that the Port Washington School District, along with many others, relies on a steady internet connection and wi-fi to succeed. I believe that even if roads are closed and we are stuck in a blizzard, as long as our town has full internet access, school may continue. If this occurs, a 2020 snow day will consist of logging on to Google Meets and Zooms, while longingly gazing at a fresh layer of white powder through the window. But, this is assuming that teachers will have access to a strong internet connection in their homes as well.
However, there is one scenario where an emergency “snow day” may be possible: if there is a widespread internet outage. This scenario, although it’s unlikely, could be the only viable reason to fully close school. It is plausible that internet and/or power outages will occur when there are snowstorms and strong winds. “No internet days,” or a few “no internet hours,” may be the closest thing we get to a snow day this year. Additionally, because our opening date was pushed back, we no longer have as much leeway to close school for a snow day, if remote learning is still possible.
This new reality comes with repercussions for all ages of children—both positive and negative. A productive outcome is that curriculum will not be unexpectedly halted, and teachers will have a lot of experience with remote teaching. Any sudden online day will be smoother than it was last March. On the other hand, elementary-aged children will not have the excitement of staying up late to follow the weather channel and inputting their zip codes into www.snowdaycalculator.com. The nostalgia of pausing the stressful school week to play in the snow will most likely not be re-lived this year.
“Like so many others, I have fond memories of watching the news at night as a snowstorm closed in on Long Island,” Dr. Ira Pernick, the principal of Paul D. Schreiber High School, said. “It’s hard to imagine that those days, filled with the excitement of a snow day, might be over. And while we may have the technology now to keep schools open I suspect, in the end, the decision to end snow days will be made by a group of people in districts throughout our region.”
With students’ classrooms now being their bedrooms, will there be no unexpected days off from school? As a high school senior, I feel fortunate that I may have been the last generation to know the joy of cuddling up in pajamas for a snow day. The fond memories of playing in the snow and taking a break from a stressful school week is irreplaceable.
“I fully support and recommend keeping snow days the way it was before the pandemic,” Dr. Hynes, the superintendent of the PWSD, said. “I know what they mean to our students and staff.”
Hopefully we will see a return of snow days in our future, but as of now, it looks like the pandemic may steal another beloved tradition.
— Emily Milgrim is a student at Schreiber High School