Should snow days melt away from school calendars?


Andrew Shinkle/

Many students look forward to snow days as much needed breaks from the daily school grind, but the pandemic has put them in danger.

   There’s no other feeling like it.

   After a nervous evening of anticipating the weather forecast’s validity, you jolt awake in your pitch-dark bedroom and reach for the windowsill. As your vision comes into focus, it’s unmistakable — a thick blanket of snow has enveloped the outside world, creating a winter wonderland in your backyard. It’s calm and quiet outside, and you feel just as peaceful inside, as you realize that you’ll be staying home all day.

   Waking up on a snow day is one of the sweetest, most treasured experiences of youth and adolescence. However, technological advances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have placed their livelihood in danger.

   Ten years ago, snow days were called due to the perceived inability to safely transport students to and from school, as a result of excessive snow. Now that the pandemic has ushered in remote learning via Zoom as an easy, accessible alternative to in-class instruction, snow days have little practicality. Regardless, they still live on in many school district calendars, including Eastern’s.

   At least for the moment.

   U.S states have been attempting to institute at-home-learning on snow days for a number of years now, stretching long before the pandemic.

   Ohio and New Hampshire school districts have both run “blizzard bag days” for countless years; the idea is that students are given a full day’s worth of classwork either prior to the inclement weather, or remotely on their computers. Students are then assigned to complete the work at home before they return to the building. These days count as attendance for the school year, which means that extra days won’t need to be tacked onto summer vacation.

   If other states have successfully replaced snow days with remote instruction, even before Zoom became a pandemic necessity, then why does Eastern still use them yearly?

   According to New Jersey state legislation, school districts that are not open for a minimum of 180 days per academic year lose all state funding and aid. Public schools cannot afford to lose their funding, so the 180 day requirement must be met. However, remote learning does not count towards the 180 days if the switch is made due to inclement weather.

   This was not the case last year, as Governor Murphy signed an executive bill that allowed remote learning for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year. But now, Zoom instruction can only count towards the 180-day mark if schools are closed for three or more days due to a public health emergency, such as the rampant spread of the Omicron variant.

   These limitations explain why remote learning isn’t allowed on the grounds of inclement weather in NJ, but things are much different just fifteen miles away in Philadelphia. On Friday, January 7th, Philadelphia’s public schools switched to remote learning due to significant snow accumulation. You may remember that at Eastern, we had a snow day on the same date.

   Why should Pennsylvania schools be allowed to pivot to online instruction due to inclement weather, while New Jersey schools are not? The two states border each other and share much of the same climate. The only real reason prohibiting the switch is outdated NJ state legislation.

   Before remote learning became mainstream, the only way to achieve meaningful instruction was to gather in-person at school, and this still represents the ideal educational environment. However, times have changed, and technology has given us the luxury of learning from the comfort of our homes. In the event of insurmountable snow accumulation, NJ schools should be allowed to utilize remote learning to count towards the 180-day requirement.

  Of course, there would be a massive outcry from parents and children alike if this becomes a reality. The past few years have completely disrupted our sense of normalcy, and snow days have become one of the few lights we can look towards in this time of darkness.

   That’s why I suggest remote learning be implemented on an intermediate basis, in order to keep the tradition and nostalgia of snow days alive. On days with lighter snow that is still enough to cancel in-person school, remote learning days should be held. Then, for the truly massive snowstorms that roll around every once in a while here in the Mid-Atlantic, true snow days should be awarded.

   By only using one or two snow days each year, the education system wouldn’t be disrupted as often, and, perhaps most importantly to kids, spring break and summer vacation may be extended. There’s also something to be said about moderation; there’s a healthy balance between work and play that would be achieved with a give-and-take snow day system.

   Snow days should never be fully removed, but there are benefits to reducing their usage in NJ schools.