Chalk up one more precious thing the pandemic has ruined. On Tuesday, the New York City Department of Education announced that it would no longer allow kids to stay home from school on especially snowy or bad weather days; instead, schools will switch to remote learning.
With the pandemic waning in the U.S., schools in New York and likely most everywhere else are planning to fully reopen classrooms to in-person learning by the fall. But in the middle of laying out its proposed calendar for the 2021 to 2022 school year, the DOE dropped the snow day bombshell.
“The DOE will shift all students to remote instruction in lieu of canceling schools due to severe weather conditions,” said the agency in a statement. On its website discussing the upcoming year, it adds that “all students and families should plan on participating in remote learning” on snow days and other times when schools are closed for an emergency. Other calendar changes will include a holiday recognizing October 11 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, rather than Columbus Day, and commemorating Juneteenth on June 22, 2022.
The snow day ban is a continuation of the policy first enacted last year. And given that New York City’s schools represent the largest system in the country, it’s likely that at least some other potentially snowy districts will follow suit in making the snow day ban permanent.
There are legitimate reasons why the end of snow days may not be such a bad thing. Schools in New York are obligated to have a set number of school days (180, to be exact) by the end of the year no matter what and allot extra time in their calendar just in case of emergencies. Too many snow days can mean that kids have to endure a few more days at the end of the school year before their summer vacation can start. Snow days may also be plenty of fun for kids, but they can be a burden for working class families that can’t afford or secure childcare at the last minute. And as anyone who grew up in the city might very well know, this reporter included, snowy days have increasingly become less of a regular occurrence in recent winters—for not-so-utterly mysterious reasons.
But having been born and raised in Brooklyn, I can safely say that there were few things more magical than the anticipation of a snow day every winter—an allure that surely hasn’t been lost among today’s kid New Yorkers, many of whom weren’t exactly pleased by the move last year. And while the DOE has promised to allow families to hold onto the screen devices they got for remote learning this past year, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether remote learning on an emergency basis will really be that much more productive than giving kids some time off. Many parents will also probably still need to adjust their lives around these interruptions, which could still involve taking the day off from work since the kids aren’t going to be physically at school anyway.
Sure, snow days may not have been the most practical thing in the world—but few of the best unexpected moments in life ever are.