This would add an extra burden to days that were already logistically complicated for many working parents. For example, Jenn Ragan, a mom in Lake Tahoe, owns a snow-removal business, so she’s always been busiest when it snows. “There’s more that goes into a snow day than just kids playing. Teachers, parents, everyone—they’re shoveling or blowing their driveways,” she told us.
But not all families are sad to lose traditional snow days. Melissa Siig, a mom of three kids in Lake Tahoe, told us that, during the pandemic, a snow day is “not as exciting and special as it used to be. It was almost like Christmas.” Many students have now spent almost a full year mostly stuck inside, and a snow day—once an excuse to stay home and relax—is not very different from a typical pandemic day. Siig’s daughter, Kaya, 14, said that her school sometimes adds days to the end of the year to compensate for snow days, so doing away with them could mean an earlier summer vacation.
Their district, which has partially returned to the classroom in a hybrid model, is responding to bad weather with both distance-learning days and traditional snow days, depending on how bad that weather is. During a big storm in January, Carmen Diaz Ghysels, the superintendent of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, called three snow days: the first two as distance learning, and the last a traditional one to accommodate teachers who had lost internet access. Ghysels is unsure whether the district will continue to have remote-learning “snow days” post-pandemic, since the state’s board of education has not announced whether distance learning is approved for the next school year. She’s also aware that many community members feel strongly about preserving the days off, and wants to hear from them before making a decision.
Other superintendents, such as Bondy Shay Gibson of Jefferson County Schools in West Virginia, are also attuned to their community’s feelings toward snow days. In December, Gibson canceled classes so that students could enjoy the first snow of the school year and take a break. In the future, however, Gibson told us, students may be asked to attend classes remotely on snowy days. “You have to have some balance,” she said. “We have huge expectations of kids these days, and every once in a while, you’ve just got to put grace before grades and let them enjoy being a kid, because it goes by pretty fast.”
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For many, including Gibson, saving a beloved tradition has turned out to be good press. On social media, thousands of people shared the letter Gibson wrote announcing the December day off, which declared that in a difficult year, “this is one thing our kids won’t lose.” A superintendent in Indiana jokingly assigned students snowball fights as homework for their day off. The Mahwah school district in New Jersey announced that it would keep snow days to “maintain the hope of children.” Campbell’s Soup made the effort corporate with a #SavetheSnowDay campaign. The company, which has partnered with Mahwah, aims to “preserve and protect our most magical of winter birthrights,” and, of course, peddle canned goods at the same time.