S(no)w More Snow Days

A look at how Stuyvesant students feel about snow days and how remote learning may have brought on their removal.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Vivian Teo

There’s nothing quite like waking up to a fresh, heavy layer of snow on the ground and checking the news to see the words “SCHOOLS CLOSED” blared on the television screen, accompanied by a cute animation of falling snowflakes.

In previous years, many students have looked forward to snow days and would spend the occasions relaxing with family or having fun with friends. These surprise days off from school also became breaks when students were able to catch up on sleep or schoolwork. “Instead of worrying about waking up at 6:00 a.m. and preparing to go to school, I got to sleep a few more hours, […] and on some days, I did work in advance,” sophomore Andrey Sokolov explained.

Freshman Iris Lin expressed a similar sentiment. “I had this very big project in middle school [which] took a lot of time and effort. And at that time, I was a very big procrastinator, [… so] I set it off to the weekend [even though it was] due on Monday.” However, by Monday morning, Lin was still not done with her project. The sudden arrival of a snow day saved Lin and gave her additional time to complete her project. “I was so relieved but also a little angry [be]cause I spent all night just trying to finish this,” Lin recalled with a sigh.

However, with the majority of students attending classes virtually this year, the New York State Education Department has announced that schools are required to opt into remote learning on days when a heavy snowstorm will normally have prevented students from coming into buildings. The reason behind this policy is that the start of the 2020-2021 school year was delayed in September, and turning potential snow days into days of remote learning would help prevent losing more educational time.

This new mandate was first enacted on December 17, 2020, after a heavy snowstorm from the northeast plunged New York City into 10 inches of snow. It was the biggest snowstorm in the city since 2016, so it is likely that schools would have been closed that Thursday under normal circumstances. Instead, remote lessons continued as usual that day, disappointing many students who had hoped for a day off. “It doesn't feel right to deny people their snow day; robbing one million kids of a free day is not an easy thing to do,” freshman Henry Ji said.

On the other hand, Sokolov stated that the full day of remote learning on December 17 was justified, particularly because of the COVID-19 situation. He felt that teachers were trying their best to figure out remote learning, and the extra day off would have been a setback. “The school right now is kind of [EXPLETIVE]… , homeworks are not due the next day, and everything is miserably disorganized, [so] snow days [just] don’t really make sense,” Sokolov explained. In addition, he expressed that remote learning was a bit lighter than in-person school for him, so he wasn’t particularly bummed out that he couldn’t get a day off. “It was only four hours of Zoom calls, and the Zoom calls didn’t end at the same time as normal school. So I still had more than enough time for myself, and I didn’t have to worry too much about homework due the next day,” he explained.

Under normal circumstances, snow days were called the day after a heavy snowfall, when it would have been too dangerous for students to commute to school. However, snow days are not only valued for their practicality. Much of the excitement surrounding them is due to their sudden and unexpected appearances which often leave students feeling in a better place both mentally and emotionally. “[A snow day] hypes kids up and makes them feel a little better about themselves,” Ji said.

However, with an easier understanding of remote learning platforms and a growing reliance on technology, snow days may permanently be a thing of the past, and not just during the COVID-19 era. There is speculation among parents, students, and teachers that even after schools return to full in-person instruction, remote learning will be implemented on snow days, maximizing instructional time for teachers.

Regardless of whether or not they support the removal of snow days while classes are all remote, many students feel that it’s unfair to apply these policies after the coronavirus pandemic has ended. “It’s a snow day, and it’s not remote learning. You can’t just force us to go to remote learning,” Sokolov said. Taking away snow days would be taking away something special for students to enjoy. Student’s busy schedules mean that many of them are not getting enough time for themselves, which snow days make up for. “We spend so much time just walking around and going on transit. The reason snow days are special is [that] you don’t have to go anywhere. For the most part, you won’t have classes, and you kind of gain back all the time you lost on transfers,” he said.

Ji also believes that snow days should not be completely obliterated from the school system, but his approach is a bit different. He feels that it would be too difficult and impractical to ensure students attend online classes on a day they were supposed to get off of school. “Half the kids aren’t even going to log on to Zoom since they'll be like ‘Oh [EXPLETIVE], I forgot my laptop.’ Kids are [going to] leave stuff at school or they might not have Internet that day, so it would just be a complete mess. There's absolutely no way you could guarantee a perfect transition for one day,” he predicted.

Whether or not snow days continue in the future or truly become a thing of the past, one thing is certain: students will never forget that burst of exhilaration that came with the announcement of this special treat and the cathartic feeling when they fell right back into bed. As Sokolov wisely said, “Snow days are special.”