By Colleen Cave
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to adapt and restructure day-to-day life. While many are hoping to return to normal as soon as possible, some changes may remain in response to a more technology integrated education.
Snow days have always been an integral part of the school year; children and parents monitoring the forecast closely, hoping for a day filled with sledding and snowball fights. Today, with the pandemic, both teachers and students are in desperate need of mental health days and a chance to do something “normal.” A snow day is a great opportunity for this to happen. This is why the White Plains Superintendent Dr. Ricca made the decision to allow for a district wide snow day a month ago on December 17th.
While the White Plains School District was very lucky to have this day of fun, not every district had the same experience. Covid-19 has forced schools to put in place an effective, accessible system to allow students to attend classes remotely. Now that these systems are up and running, it is possible for schools to continue classes even in the face of snow-covered roads. Some surrounding school districts are taking part in a pilot program where snow days are now remote learning days for students. This pilot program, run by the NY State Department of Education, is only set to run this year in the face of COVID. While this loss of snow days for some children may seem disheartening, the result of this trial run may be very helpful in the future. Even if snow days do continue, this technology can be used to allow a wider access to education for students who have prolonged illnesses or live far away. Remote learning is also useful when districts have used all their allotted snow days for the year. Typically, when a district uses too many inclement weather days for snow, hurricanes, or other weather emergencies, classes have to cut into spring break or summer vacation. The use of remote learning would ensure that students and staff get all of their promised break time, while still staying on track with lessons.
Even with the system put in place, there are still a lot of possibilities for schools to consider before remote learning is a viable option for all students after COVID. For example, after storms or natural disasters not all students will have access to electricity. Also, after COVID, will students still have access to free Wi-Fi? And if not, are they excused from class while it’s remote? Each district has unique obstacles in order to cater to a diverse group of students and staff, so it will be a while before they can come up with a plan that works for everyone.
With online learning it is possible that snow days could become a thing of the past, but schools aren’t in a hurry to make that happen. When asked whether snow days would go away, Dr. Ricca said, “I don’t think they will, and I don’t think they should... Snow days mean more than a day off from school. In a lot of ways, they’re family days, they’re opportunities to go outside.”
Snow days have been a huge part of childhood for many years, and it seems they’re here to stay, but the ability to have online school opens a lot of doors and different opportunities that should be explored as technology continues to improve.