Snow Days Aren’t Negotiable

The NYC DOE recently replaced future snow days with remote instruction, but it is a poor decision for the well-being of students.

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By Mandy Li

For the upcoming school year, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) announced on May 4 that it would be instituting remote learning in place of snow days. Citing the “success of remote learning” as the reason, the DOE declared that public school children will not experience the unexpected days off to play in the snow. This decision is detrimental to the well-being of students as it negatively impacts their mental health and education.

Snow days allow kids to enjoy a fun, stress-free day outside. When looking back on their days in school, people should remember playing outdoors on the snowiest days of the year instead of spending time on Zoom. A day off to frolic in the snow provides a motivation to play outside, seeing as only 35 percent of school-aged children receive the recommended amount of physical activity. Children should not be cooped up, staring at a screen for hours, as it is hardly a necessary adaptation for a single missed school day. Children are also likely to be distracted by the enticing winter weather, making focusing in class even more difficult than before.

Though this decree means that there will be fewer additional makeup days at the end of the school year, a day of remote learning cannot do what a day of in-person instruction can. Teachers are not given enough time to prepare for these unpredictable snow days, thus furthering the inadequacy of remote learning. Care and deliberation are required to plan lessons; this time is not given to teachers when they are required, out of the blue, to switch to a different platform for a day.

Students have also reported not being able to learn well virtually, with many failing to show up to remote classes and lectures. A staggering 2,260 students in NYC have not done any schooling or connected with their schools in the past year. These students have no reason to attend an isolated day of remote learning and will likely miss out on the online instruction other students will be receiving. Other students may lack the proper equipment for a day of virtual learning. While schools and the DOE gave out tablets and laptops this year for online instruction, it is difficult to organize the distribution of devices on such short notice, and underprivileged students will likely involuntarily miss class.

Discarding snow days for virtual learning also exemplifies the unfortunate general shift toward continuously working and maximizing our “productivity.” The amount of work students have received has increased from previous generations, with younger age groups in 1997 receiving an average of more than twice as much homework as they did 16 years prior. Another study found that by 2015, children had three times too much homework with no correlation between the amount of work given and learning benefits. Seeing as children are already overworked and overburdened, getting rid of snow days, one of our few unexpected breaks, is detrimental to students’ mental and physical health and represents the cultural shift toward valuing work over everything else.

Ultimately, eliminating snow days is downright upsetting for children. Something that was a joyful staple of so many of our childhood winters may not be experienced by the future generations. While the DOE has not made it clear whether or not the policy is permanent, it has not mentioned what is in store for future years. The existence of this change in policy alone is worrying and indicative of this shift in valuing work over recreational time.