Kids Deserve Snow Days, Even in a Pandemic

Illustration for article titled Kids Deserve Snow Days, Even in a Pandemic

Photo: Elizaveta Galitckaia (Shutterstock)

My husband and I warned our 10-year old earlier this week that, despite the big snow storm headed our way, a snow day was unlikely. He’d been on a hybrid schedule for most of the year, going into the classroom two days a week, but his school has gone all-virtual to get us through the holidays. Short of a major power outage, there’d really be no logistical reason for school to be cancelled.

He didn’t love the fact that his snow days were potentially nixed, but he didn’t become particularly upset about it either. This year has taken so much from him, and all kids, that one more disappointment is all but expected. But then, on Tuesday afternoon—a full 24 hours before the first flake even fell—his school district announced that all remote learning would be cancelled today. It’s a snow day.

Knowing a snow day was unlikely made the joy of finding out he did get one all the sweeter. It reminded me how, when I was a kid, we’d sit in front of the TV in the morning after a big snowfall, watching the alphabetical scrolling list of school closures on the morning news. Maybe the first time or two, my school was missing from the list and disappointment would start to overshadow hope, but then WAIT! There it is!

Not every district made the same choice as my son’s, though:

“We had joy, and that was nice,” is what I’m reading here. “But our kids are living through the literal worst year, and there’s no room for joy in this shit show of an existence.”

I understand the arguments for keeping the learning going: The reason schools close for a snow day are related to the safety and logistics of arriving to and departing from the physical building, and we’ve all learned how to live a life without ever arriving to or departing from anywhere. And, hey, kids who live in warm weather areas don’t get snow days! (Yeah, but you have warm weather; that’s the tradeoff you agreed to.)

But more importantly, parents and educators are already worried about the longterm effects of an academic “COVID slide” for many students. Surely the last thing they need is less instructional time. Maybe not, but it’s one day. One day out of nine months of upheaval. Requiring kids to log on to Zoom and practice their math facts today is not going to undo the challenges COVID has presented them with. The achievement gap is incredibly problematic—and it will probably widen even further thanks to this pandemic—but one day isn’t going to close it.

On the other hand, the mental health benefits kids can get from taking a break, to going outside to build a snowman and coming back inside to drink hot cocoa, to feeling an ounce of normalcy in the joy of a day off from this pandemic is something our kids could probably really use right now.

My son was lucky enough to get the entire day off; so far, he has built two giant LEGO monsters, he’s watched some TV, and he’s got plans for a snowman this afternoon. I’m going to take a few hours off work myself so I can find a good hot cocoa recipe (oh, here’s a couple) and challenge him to a game of chess.

If you’re buried under snow like we are today—or whenever you happen to get your winter storm this year—take a snow break. Even if they absolutely have to have that Zoom music class, encourage them to pack up the work early and head outside for a snowball fight or some chilly fort-building. Play some board games, read some books together, watch a movie. (Hell, even if you live in a warm weather place, take a break and call it a sunshine day or whatever.) The math facts will still be there tomorrow, I promise you.

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