- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2020

The rigors of online instruction would seem to make snow days — when schools cancel classes because of harsh weather — unnecessary. After all, if the kids are already at home for school, why take a day off?

Not so fast, says a school district in the heart of Vermont ski country.

Officials of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union in Bennington have told parents that “any school cancellations due to inclement weather or COVID-19 would be handled the same, as far as protocol is concerned,” school district spokeswoman Katie West said in an email to The Washington Times.

“The goal here was to make sure that students were engaged in as much learning as possible,” Ms. West said.

School districts across the country, from skiing hamlets in the Rocky Mountains to the boroughs of New York City, are weighing the pros and cons of weather-related shutdowns this winter. Some school administrators note the mental relief that a snow day can provide for students and teachers alike.

In Mahwah Township, New Jersey, in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains and adjacent to various skiing destinations in New York state, school district officials are sticking to snow days, citing stability for kids.

“We do recognize that our expertise in the area of virtual instruction has advanced throughout the last year,” interim Mahwah Township Public School

Superintendent Leonard Fitts said in an email to parents. “We have decided that few childhood acts remain unchanged due to COVID-19 and we will maintain the hope of children by calling actual snow days due to inclement weather.”

However, school officials in cities from Minneapolis to St. Louis to New York City have said that students will stay home for online instruction if and when inclement weather hits.

“As we reopen schools for this critical school year we are utilizing all of the lessons learned from remote schooling this spring to maximize our students’ instructional time,” New York City Education Department spokesman Nathaniel Styer said in a statement earlier this fall. “This includes providing remote instruction during both Election Day and snow days.”

Still, the snow-day decision varies from school district to school district.

In snowy Massachusetts, the state’s education czar says each district will decide whether to hang onto snow days or not.

In Teton County, Wyoming, where snow falls heavily but school is rarely called off, school spokesperson Charlotte Reynold told The Times “we are planning to use virtual platforms to avoid actually cancelling or delaying the start to a school day this year.”

A recent poll by Ed Week Research Center found that nearly 2 out of 5 principals and administrators have opted to keep children in seats and on laptops rather than allow them to go sledding, build snowmen and throw snowballs this winter.

In October, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes estimated a learning loss for students across nearly two dozen states ranged from 57 to 183 days in reading and between 136 to 232 days in math.

Such numbers soften the call for snow days among some traditionalists.

Following a snowstorm on Colorado’s Eastern Slope in October, four suburban school districts canceled classes in lieu of a snow day, save for Denver Public Schools, which kept its students learning at home.

“One day or one week, after a while that adds up,” Denver Public Schools spokesperson Winna Maclaren told 9News in Denver. “So, anything we can do to minimize the loss of learning, we want to be able to support our kids in doing so.”

Other schools are still deciding. A dusting of snow in Lexington, Kentucky, didn’t stop kids from learning on Monday. Nonetheless, a schools spokesperson told The Times that the district is “in the process” of deciding its winter protocol.

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