A New Jersey school district is saying that the kids already have lost enough: sports have been shut down, graduation ceremonies were canceled, proms are being put on hold.
The next beloved tradition on the chopping block: snow days. Many cities, including Minneapolis, have decided that with students already relying on remote learning, inclement weather is inconsequential for school-day operations. In short — no more snow days.
In one New Jersey district, however, school administrations have staked out a firm pro-snow-day stance.
"We have decided that few childhood acts remain unchanged due to COVID-19, and we will maintain the hope of children by calling actual snow days due to inclement weather," the Mahwah Township Public School District announced. "Snow days are chances for on-site learners and virtual learners to just be kids by playing in the snow, baking cookies, reading books and watching a good movie."
While the decision to hold open the possibility of a snow day might delight students, closing school is often a fraught decision for administrators. The New Jersey School Boards Association requires that schools in the state be open to students 180 days for at least four hours of instruction or risk losing state funding. As in most states, New Jersey laws prohibit schools from holding makeup days on weekends, holidays or after graduation, typically leaving spring break and other recesses as the only times to recoup days of instruction lost to weather closures.
Critics of the Mahwah Township decision abound. Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of education and economics at Boston University, said there's "no justifiable reason" to declare a snow day if students are learning remotely, citing the time students have already lost due to pandemic disruptions.
"Our goal should be to squeeze every available minute out of this school year for student learning (and more general care by teaching professionals)," Goodman said via e-mail. "Parents and students are already receiving substantially fewer educational services than they used to. Cutting back further for bad weather would be laughable if it weren't so awful an idea."
But others argue that preserving snow days is the least schools can do to keep at least one of the dwindling number of school year rituals intact. After the Denver Public School District announced in September that virtual learning could put snow days on the chopping block, local resident Michael Vair reflected on his own childhood of enjoying an unscheduled day off and lamented that his sixth-grader could be denied the experience.
"It's sad to think of them not having that glimmer of hope that when the clouds start building up they might not have to go to school," Vair told the Denver Post. "There's something to be said about having spontaneous free time."