The Day the Snow Days Died

On a snow day, outside looking into my office instead of inside looking out.
On a snow day: outside, looking into my office, instead of inside, looking out

We are witnessing the beginning of the end of snow days and it has nothing to do with climate change. We had enough snow yesterday (and more projected for today, although it has yet to arrive) that schools are closed. Of course, the public schools here were already closed for on-site students. Distance-learning is the order of the day. The Catholic school that our girls attend, however, is open and we shuffle the girls off to school each morning and pick them up each afternoon. The school is closed for a snow day today, but there are ominous signs that the end of this practice is nigh. As a message from the school read:

Now that we are able to do distance learning, we will only use one snow day at a time.  Any day after one that is unsafe to get to school will be a distance learning day.

Which means, for instance, if schools are closed again tomorrow, the kids won’t have a snow day, but will have a distance-learning day. Instead of getting outdoors to make snowpeople, and sled down the awesome sledding hill that is our backyard; instead of an unexpected day of fresh air and white snow, they will be stuck at the kitchen table, eyes fixed on iPads and Chromebooks, listening to repeated cries of, “You’re muted! You need to unmute!” and “I can’t hear everyone so everyone needs to mute!”

In addition to everything else, COVID has run the death null of the snow day, at least in those parts of the country where snow days are a fact of winter life. I’d predicted as much last spring, and for some reason, Kelly didn’t believe me. At least, she didn’t think schools would do away with snow days simply because they’ve managed to make use of technology and distance-learning. But I’ve been reading more articles in the papers about schools doing away with snow days now that Zoom and Teams allow for virtual classrooms.

Probably my age is showing. I grew up in New Jersey and New England, where snow was frequent in winter, and snow days were a delight. I can remember early New England mornings, laying in bed, listening as the radio announcer rattled off (alphabetically) the school districts that were closed due to snow. We lived in Warwick, so we had to endure nearly the entire list in great anticipation before we finally heard the words, “…Wahwick, West Wahwick…” at which point my brother and I would cheer in glee. It took quite a bit more snow in New England in those days to close schools than it does in northern Virginia today. A bare 3 inches closed schools here. In “Wahwick”, it probably required a foot at least.

It meant that there was a lot of snow for playing in, and on those days, we’d get into our snow suits and, it seemed to me, spend the entire day out in the snow.

This is just what our kids did yesterday when the snow arrived. Almost as soon as they’d finished breakfast, they were in the backyard, making using of our steep backyard hill for sledding. The girls made “invitations”to a family snowball fight, which took place to everyone’s great delight after lunch. They were out again later on, sledding on an even bigger hill at our nearby park. They had a fun, we had fun, everyone got plenty of fresh air. It was a pleasant reprieve from all of the extra screentime the last year has brought us.

Snowball fight invitation
Snowball fight invitation, posted with permission of Grace (the Little Miss)

And now, it seems, the practice, which was falling ill thanks to technology improvements even before COVID, is finally coming to an end. It makes me sad. Each time I think about it, I am reminded of Isaac Asimov’s short story, “The Fun They Had.”

But at least they have the day off today, and from the sound of it, they are planning more sledding and snowball fights, which means a little less time on screens, Zoom, and Teams meetings. From my office I can see them in the backyard, racing down the hill, and hear their sqeals of delight as one or another wipes out.

Even as an adult, snow days are great and I will miss them.



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