We Need Snow Days!

As snow becomes a rare occasion, making and treasuring memories from snow days becomes more and more valuable.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

On January 15, 2024, New York City experienced its first notable snow of the season, ending the 701-day streak of less than an inch of snow falling in Central Park since February 13, 2022. This snowfall was met by joy all around, with children taking immense glee in the meager 1.7 inches that coated the ground. Unfortunately, most students were stuck in school, unable to enjoy the flurries that surrounded us.

The NYC Department of Education (DOE) mandates that schools must remain open for at least 180 days every school year. Due to religious and state holidays, as well as parent-teacher conference days, many schools in NYC barely reach that minimum. As a result, NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks “canceled” snow days in 2020, stating that if children couldn't physically get to school, they would learn online with Zoom and other technological supplements. 

Zoom meetings, however, were not a very efficient way of learning for most students during the pandemic. Learning digitally caused screen fatigue for both students and teachers and also led to distractions because students had no social interactions to alleviate the monotony of online school. No student wants to attend online learning when they could instead be playing outside or relaxing at home. Most schools also find their students to be more successful in the building rather than at home, further proving the ineffectiveness of remote learning. In light of these obstacles, schools are reluctant to do school online.

Consequently, the mayor and school chancellors chose to continue in-person learning when it snows, leading to risky travel situations and disgruntled teachers and students. Even a small layer of snow can form ice, making New York City sidewalks treacherous. Students and teachers might also find that their normal subway route to school has been altered, leading to extensive delays and below-average attendance. Snow can also fall unevenly in different parts of the city, causing some students to have a more difficult commute if the snow accumulates faster where they live. Just because it doesn’t snow enough for the city to use snow plows—which require at least an inch of snow on the road at a time to work—doesn't mean that it isn’t still difficult to traverse across the city. 

Though snowfall measured in Central Park has been declining, it doesn’t change the fact that even a light snowfall is still a wonderful opportunity for students to have an unexpected break from school. Just because children are physically able to get to school in the snow doesn't mean that they should have to. Snow has been a means of escape from school for students for generations, and they’re a rite of passage that shouldn’t be revoked.

Many New York children are raised on the idea that snow is magical and special since it happens so rarely. Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day was read to my classmates and me almost religiously when I was in elementary school, and movies such as Frozen or songs like “Let It Snow” have solidified the idea that snowfall is something to anticipate come winter.  Moreover, snow has become less and less common due to global warming, because increasing temperatures have led to more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. This makes a snowfall an even more momentous occasion, especially for young children. If it only snows more than an inch at a time just once or twice a year, as it does now, a snow day is a great way to commemorate and celebrate the snow. To force children to stay inside a classroom or cooped up at their desks while it snows is detrimental to their childhoods, as it removes the opportunity to make lifelong memories. I have met children today in New York who have never gone sledding or made a snow angel. This collective loss saddens me, and I’m sure many others feel similarly. 

Since schools can’t go below 180 days of instruction, we could make up for snow days by moving the first day of school up by a few days. By September 8, most schools in the country have already started up again; by contrast, New York starts rather late. By moving up one or two days, the DOE would have enough flexibility to instate a snow day when it does snow. If the snow days aren’t used, schools could simply end earlier. This would allow for days off during the winter without taking away days from the school calendar or from the total number of vacation days.

Another strategy to preserve the magic of a snow day would be to allow students to go outside for some classes. In science, students could learn about the molecular structure of snowflakes. In history, students could learn about the historical impact of snow, such as Napoleon's retreat from Moscow during the winter of 1812. Either way, the focus should be to have fun and experience a less stressful school day than normal. Many students start to feel a bit listless by the middle of winter; allowing students a day to play and recharge could do wonders for a school's morale and provide a much-needed break. However, these alternatives pale in comparison to the best solution: a snow day. A snow day gives kids an incentive to go outside, taking them away from their devices and into the fresh air. When children sled down a hill or participate in a snowball fight, they exercise, a profitable exposure for both the mind and body. This is especially important for younger children whose schooling experience focuses more on cooperation and social interaction anyway. Forming positive childhood memories is especially valuable during a child’s formative years.

I believe that as a society, we tend to forget how much nature and the outdoors can teach a child. While classroom learning is certainly very important, so is letting children explore and cherish special days off. As snow becomes a rare occasion, making and treasuring memories from snow days becomes more and more significant. It is also the perfect opportunity for students and teachers alike to relax and reduce stress in addition to rejuvenating worn-out school staff. Snow days let kids indulge in the wholesome, magical fun that they hear about in childhood fairytales and movies. We should do what we can to protect these precious and evergreen moments from our childhoods.