Are school snow days a thing of the past?

Posted November 13, 2020 4:46 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2020 6:48 p.m. EST

— Snow day.

The two words that fill the hearts of students everywhere with joy and bring smiles to the faces of teachers and even parents could become a thing of the past. The expansion of online instruction in school districts statewide during the coronavirus pandemic makes it easier for schools to simply shift to remote learning during inclement weather rather than cancel classes altogether for one or more days.

Several districts in central North Carolina, for example, went virtual on Friday after heavy rains caused flooding.

None of the area school districts contacted Friday said they have made a decision to abandon snow days in favor of remote learning. Some students, teachers and parents said they hope the districts don't.

"Durham Public Schools remains focused on improving online learning and finding safe ways to implement in-person instruction. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve, so is our school district. At this time, DPS has not changed the way in which we handle severe weather situations," spokeswoman Casey Watson said in an email.

"Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has not announced a blanket conversion of snow days to remote learning days," spokesman Jeff Nash said. "When inclement weather arrives, we will consider other related factors, such as wind, flooding and power outages."

Similarly, the Wake County Public School System and Chatham County Schools said they haven't made any decisions, while districts in Orange, Cumberland and Johnston counties didn't respond to requests for comment.

Tami Barnes, whose three children were learning at home Friday rather than in class because of flooding in the area, said she hopes snow days will remain part of their childhood.

"I think, personally, when we have a snow day, just let them be a kid," Barnes said. "Let them go play in the snow, play in the rain and just maybe have a mental health day because I’m worried, if we always rely on virtual learning, when do they get a little break?"

"Snow days are not just snow days," agreed Danielle Caldwell, whose son attends school in Durham. "Snow days are mental health days, and I think teachers [and] parents look forward to those mental health days just as much as children.

"I think what we’ve learned during this pandemic is that we do need to take time out for social and emotional rest," Caldwell added.

Millie Rosen, a seventh-grade math teacher at Durham School of the Arts, called snow days "magical days" for both students and teachers.

"I think we need to keep snow days as something sacred within the school system," she said. "They’re kind of the only break that we’re really going to have left. Considering how long this pandemic is going to be going on, kids and teachers deserve a break and a day to have hot chocolate and sit by a fire or go have a snowball fight, too."

Rosen also said power outages caused by snow or ice could prevent some students from learning online.

But Kira Kroboth, whose fifth-grader is taking classes through the North Carolina Virtual Academy this year, said she wouldn't mind if snow days go away.

"I'm OK with it because they can keep learning, and I know the teachers well enough to know that they’re not going to expect the kids, with snow falling all around, to sit there for six hours," Kroboth said, bringing an angry retort from her son.

"You’re not in school," Asher Kroboth said.

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