Longing for snow days


Over the last few weeks, we’ve been getting a lot of something we haven’t really seen much of over the past couple years: snow.

So much, in fact, schools in communities across the region had no choice but to close. Schools in communities that were, of course, not in New York City.

That’s because since the coronavirus pandemic, the city has done away with snow days, opting instead to have everyone continue learning — just at home.

Yes, yes, education works best when it’s rigorous and on a schedule. If the young minds loading buses each day were robots, then we’d probably be hesitant to interrupt the routine. But they aren’t. Our children are living, breathing people, and all of us can use a break from time to time — especially one we didn’t expect.

Anyone who grew up in climates susceptible to winter almost assuredly experienced at least one snow day in their life, if not several. They go all the way back to the 19th century when schools became gathering points children would flock to — and where safety would become paramount.

Yet, school snow days remain more a phenomenon a bit unique to North America.

Even in places where crews are quite adept at clearing roads, even the best can be overwhelmed by significant storms and heavy snowfalls. And while it might feel like a free day off for many of our young learners, school districts typically build in snow days into the schedule — meaning any unexpected days off will just be made up later in the spring.

Neighbors who surround New York City understand the value of snow days, but not everyone shares those values — especially downtown. And it’s there we will find a growing contingent of education leaders working hard to wipe snow days from existence.

It’s not that New York City has it out for an occasional unscheduled school closing. It’s just the city’s education department has capitalized on technology expansion caused by the coronavirus pandemic that made remote learning for all not just possible, but practical.

For the 1.1 million students who attend more than 1,800 schools in the city, instead of sitting inside of a classroom to learn, they are sitting inside their living rooms and bedrooms. All while other people their age, living just a few short miles away, grabbed their snowsuits and sleds, and enjoyed the winter beauty Mother Nature has delivered.

Learning is important, but snow days are valuable. Quite valuable, in fact. Beyond safety, snow days provide a much-needed mental health break — not just for students, but for the adults responsible for their learning.

The pressure of academic demands and extracurricular activities can be intense.

That can lead not just to stress, but even burnout.

Snow days give all of us a chance to recharge and relax through some unscheduled playtime outdoors. And that’s important, too. We hear too much about how video games, computers and the old classic television keep so many of our kids indoors.

But freshly fallen snow is irresistible to most of us, and will almost assuredly get them outside and have some fun.

It’s good for physical health in a way sitting in front of a computer watching a teacher on Zoom just can’t provide.

Finally, it’s a chance to build community. Families come together to shovel sidewalks, or maybe help a neighbor in need. Children get together, working to build snow forts, or even a friendly snowman, complete with a carrot nose and a top hat.

And who doesn’t love an impromptu snowball fight?

All of that comes with many parents still working remotely, something that helps mitigate child care issues and costs that may have typically otherwise accompanied snow days.

Each one of our children will spend more than 1,200 days in class through high school.

Because snow days are cool. And here in the Bronx — and in New York City — they can be cool again.-

snow days, school, New York City