NYCDOE Declares Remote Instructional Days During Snow Days

With the release of the school year calendar, the New York City Department of Education announced that instruction will resume remotely on snow days and Election Day.

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By Emily Lu

With the release of the 2021-2022 school year calendar on May 4, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) announced that instruction will resume remotely on snow days and Election Day instead of a day off.

Administrators believe that the past year of remote learning influenced the DOE’s decision to continue education on snow days. “Prior to remote learning, there was no way we were equipped to just ‘go remote’ in bad weather,” Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram said in an e-mail interview. “This policy enables all employees to be working instead of getting a paid day off for inclement weather. It’s a good business decision for the DOE in that respect, obviously. It’s also ‘good’ instructionally because students do not miss classes—they take them at home.”

English teacher Heather Huhn believed that classes during snow days were to compensate for the loss of learning time due to the pandemic. “The DOE wants to make sure that the students are learning at every given opportunity and at every given moment and especially because it’s perceived that so much learning was lost over this pandemic,” she said. “It sent the message to the DOE that it's possible, so therefore we [would] necessarily take days when at home and use them productively.”

As of now, the administration is uncertain of the scheduling during remote snow days, “Snow days are now expected to be instructional in some form (asynchronous or synchronous),” Principal Seung Yu said. “We're examining what next school year will look like and how we take some of the benefits of remote learning into consideration.”

In the past, snow days were seen as memorable days off from school for students. “Usually there would be a lot of snow right in front of our house because nobody put salt there and I didn’t have to shovel it either because it’s an apartment building,” freshman Arshia Mazumder said. “So a lot of the time we’d do the typical snow angels, snowmen, [and] sometimes we’d go to the nearby park and go sledding.”

Others also saw snow days as an opportunity to spend more time with their families. “I normally don’t get to spend much time with my family because they both work long hours in service jobs, so I saw snow days as good bonding time as well as an opportunity to catch up on work,” sophomore Sanjana Yasna said in an e-mail interview.

Snow days also served as a period of rest from the rush of the school schedule for teachers alike. “I would often spend them catching up on work,” Huhn said. “So maybe sleeping in a little bit and then catching up on papers I needed to grade, or making sure that my lessons were okay for the next day, moving forward. I really viewed them as a breath of fresh air or an exhale.”

While many students understand that issuing remote learning on school days allows for more educational time, they are disappointed by the change. “It makes sense from an administrative point of view because [...] if you had a snow day, you would take a day off from one of the breaks,” sophomore Anjini Katari said. “It does make me kind of sad, though, because now you have to go to school no matter what. It [used to be] something to look forward to, a possibility of a snow day.”

Others also questioned the feasibility of switching to remote learning, given the spontaneity of snow days. “Snow days are especially rough for families facing financial hardship; no heating, plus parents worrying about work inconveniences, make it very difficult for poor kids to focus on synchronized classes,” Yasna said.

Sophomore Wenjia Lu agreed, adding the unpredictability of a sudden transition from in-person learning to remote. “Snow days don't happen more than a few days per year, so why not just let the students take the day off?” she said in an e-mail interview. “Not to mention remote learning would probably be ineffective [anyway], since we would be having in-person education by then and suddenly transitioning to online class just for a day would be hectic.”

Adaptability may pose a challenge to a sudden switch to remote learning. “The only issues we have at Stuyvesant to face are ensuring that students always have internet and computer access to go remote at will (as well as teachers),” Ingram said. “And also that our teachers have lessons and curriculum that can be accomplished whether we are at school or not.”

Furthermore, others had hoped to avoid remote learning in the upcoming school year. “I don’t think anyone wants to do remote learning anymore. The fact that I still have to have Zoom on my computer, even after the pandemic is over, it just seems so stupid,” Mazumder said.

The news has raised numerous concerns from teachers, who may face logistical challenges in a limited amount of time. “Teachers won’t necessarily have a Zoom link set up if they are teaching every day in class, so trying to scramble and get all that set up for just one day will be a bit of a pain,” math teacher Brian Sterr said. “If we are back on our regular Stuyvesant schedule with 41-minute periods and four minutes passing, that schedule doesn’t lend itself to Zoom classes [...] It’s a little bit harder to transition while being in the building.”

Students and teachers alike may also continue to face the current issues present with remote instruction, such as technological problems. “If we go back to the 41-minute period classes [and] to transfer that directly into a remote day, you're just not going to get through what you wanted to,” Huhn said. “There’s going to be students who are lagging, who are coming into the Zoom class late.”

In addition to teaching, Ingram also acknowledged that remote learning would present further challenges for teachers. “Homeowners are still responsible for clearing snow from walkways and digging out their car,” she said. “Some like me, have elderly parents we would want to assist before dark at their homes, or before they would try to do so themselves and risk injury; so this new policy prevents it or pushes it to late in the day/evening.”

The new circumstances and policies being put in place have made both students and teachers alike develop a new sense of appreciation toward past snow days. “It kind of made me appreciate snow days more,” Katari said. “Remembering that time where we had snow days, where we were able to take a day off and enjoy the snow just because we couldn’t use the roads. I definitely have a higher regard for them, [because] before I took them for granted.”