Did the COVID-19 pandemic cancel snow days? Not everywhere
When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020 and schools had to switch to virtual learning, many families, educators and students believed it would be the end of the beloved snow day.
After all, why cancel school if teachers can viably hold classes over Zoom?
In 2020, former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made it clear as the city began preparing for a snowstorm that students would have to log in and work as usual. Kids had lost too much instruction time already, he said, though he admitted to mixed feelings.
"As a parent — and I was a kid once myself — I have to say I feel a little sad that the snow day we used to all know may be gone because it’s really not going to be a day off if we have a snow day," he offered.
Some school districts immediately balked at the idea of canceling snow days and assured families their children will still have time to enjoy the winter weather.
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In Washington Township, New Jersey, Superintendent Jeffrey Mohre said remote learning or not, he’ll still call snow days.
"Easiest decision I’ve had to make all year," Mohre said in 2020.
"Go build a snowman," was the instruction from like-minded Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson at Jefferson County schools in Charles Town, West Virginia.
Nearly two years into the pandemic, the simple answer as to whether the COVID-19 pandemic nixed snow days depends on where you live.
Some school districts that have kept snow days
Students attending public schools in Washington, D.C., can breathe a sigh of relief as snow days will remain part of the district’s options when inclement weather occurs.
"DC Public Schools will have traditional snow days with no virtual instruction in the event we need to close school buildings due to inclement weather," a spokesperson said in a statement to FOX Television Stations.
Educators across the country say students may not have internet and computers to readily access remote learning.
For example, Coventry Public Schools in Rhode Island is allowed up to five days of distance learning for winter weather. However, the district recently had a snow day in January after failing to provide students with laptops for remote learning.
"We still can use traditional snow days," Superintendent Craig Levis said. "Sometimes we all need a "snow day"!
Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia said the district is allowing up to five snow days. After that, school leaders will consider virtual learning.
RELATED: No Detroit snow days? District says expect virtual classes during SE Michigan snowstorm
"During weather events, FCPS must consider power outages, technical connection issues, and whether students have access to devices that they may not have taken home the night before," the district says on its website.
Ben Blair is the principal of Rogers Park Montessori in Chicago. Blair said he recently declared a snow day because he believes it’s actually beneficial for students, according to FOX 32 Chicago.
"I think there’s value in these moments of reckless, joyful abandon. Whether flopping in the snow or meeting neighbors out on the street shoveling, that human connection that serendipitously happens during a snow day is fantastic," he said.
According to FOX 9 Minneapolis, in December, several school districts in Minnesota also canceled school because of the snow such as District 196, which covers areas in Rosemount, Apple Valley, and Eagan
Some school districts that have dropped snow days
However, some school districts have taken snow days off the calendar, like Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia.
"The team at ACPS has planned for the days when in-person instruction may not be possible," ACPS executive director of instructional support, Dr. Gerald R. Mann Jr., said in a statement. "Our plan includes the notification process and the continuation of learning during these unforeseen winter weather conditions."
According to FOX 32 Chicago, many schools districts in the Chicagoland area took a page out of the pandemic playbook and switched to remote learning earlier this month instead of having snow days.
Some of the parents that the news outlet talked to say they can understand the reasoning behind that, but sometimes they say it’s good to just let kids be kids.
"Every district needs to do what they need to do, but for our kids it was nice to have a true snow day and not have to check in. And as a parent it's nice they can just come out and do this," said parent Katie Lutzow.
What experts say about the benefits, drawbacks of snow days
The debate continues about the benefits and drawbacks of snow days, with educators on both sides weighing in.
One study concluded that just a few snow days can negatively impact a student’s learning.
"The percentage of students passing math assessments fell by about one-third to one-half a percentage point for each day school was closed, with the effect largest for students in lower grades," a study reported by EducationNext reported.
However, a follow-up study said that it’s not the snow days but the total number of days missed in the school year that could negatively impact a student’s achievement, saying that teachers and students are equipped to handle short disruptions in the school calendar.
"Student absences sharply reduce student achievement, particularly in math, but school closings appear to have little impact," the study’s author pointed out.
Various educators have also weight in on the issue, with some saying a school day gives teachers a much-needed break.
"When our district doesn’t give a snow day on days we probably should have had one, you can feel the angst among the staff and students," Derek Boillat, a teacher in Michigan, said on a blog. "Teaching in these months is long and hard, and sometimes you just need a day to recharge."
But there could be a bigger issue at hand than keeping or canceling snow days. Many school districts are dealing with large swaths of student absences.
Teachers around the U.S. are confronting classrooms where as many as half of students are absent because they have been exposed to COVID-19 or their families kept them at home out of concern about the surging coronavirus. Some of the country’s biggest school systems report absentee rates around 20% or slightly more, with some individual schools seeing far higher percentages of missing students.
President Joe Biden has stressed the importance of keeping schools open for in-person learning. The White House on Wednesday announced a monthly supply of 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests that schools can use for test-to-stay programs intended to lessen disruptions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.