Should schools pivot to virtual learning on snow days or give the kids and teachers a good, old-fashioned day off?
People of a certain age remember the thrill of waiting to hear your school’s emergency closing number on the radio during snowy mornings — and the agony of not hearing it.
These days, it’s all text alerts and emails, mostly letting parents and students know that tomorrow’s “snow day” will actually be a virtual learning day.
Virtual learning has given students and educators a way to overcome barriers that previously separated them, like inclement weather. And while there’s definitely an upside to that, there’s also inequity. Virtual learning opportunities aren’t the same for everyone, particularly students from lower-income households, without reliable access to the internet or devices, or those who live in rural areas.
And let’s not underestimate the value of a good, old-fashioned snow day, where kids get to play outside and teachers get to take a breath.
We recently asked our newsletter readers (subscribe here) where they stand on schooling during snow days: Pivot to virtual learning or give students and teachers the day off? Here’s what your fellow Pennsylvanians had to say (answers have been edited for length and clarity):
“My vote would always be for a snow day!”
-Debbie Sulecki, Erie
“Snow days should be just that. School is closed, snow days are built into the calendar. Remote learning should NOT take place instead of a school day. I am NOT for each district being permitted to have remote days at their discretion as Council Rock SD has done.”
-Ann Michalis, Bucks County
“Teaching is a hard occupation these days. I believe giving teachers and kids a snow day with no learning is so beneficial to both.”
-Louanne, Blooming Grove
“I was a teacher for many years. My opinion is give the kids (and teachers) a day off! Let the kids know the fun of waiting to hear if school is closed. As a student and teacher myself, I have great memories of that excitement.
-Ginger Geibel, West Chester
“The virtual sessions are useless; the kids are not engaged and the teaching is subpar and too short. Give the kids and teachers a break and make up for the missed days at the end of the year like it was in the good old days.”
-Gram Bretz, Fleetwood
“If our kids were globally ranked near the top of the scale, yeah, have a good, old-fashioned snow day. But we are woefully behind. Can we satisfy both sides of the equation? How about (virtual) school in the morning and early dismissal?”
-Claudia Post, Philadelphia
“Give the kids a snow day off to play. They will have 50 years to work without snow days. Play time is much more valuable than a single day of schooling.”
-John Schaninger, Upper Black Eddy
“I am not at all for virtual learning on snow days. Maybe it’s different in the larger schools, but I live in a rural area where there are children that do not have the support at home to help them with virtual learning. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and the students had to go to virtual learning, many (students in our area) fell behind and ended up being held back or failing due to lack of help and support from parents.”
-Dottie Reddinger, Shippenville
“Having raised special needs children, I would pivot to virtual learning. While it would be hard to do that with a special needs child, learning how to (navigate) school standards would also develop relationships between parent and child, and soothe some of the problems between parent and school. So taking the day to breathe is rather a missed opportunity.”
“My vote would be to give the kids a day off. Enjoy nature, get a break, and reset their mind for learning!”
-Lucille Pilchta, Paxtonia
“Snow days should be off. Not on the computer BUT students need to read a book for 20-30 minutes — so much better for their minds.”
-Angie Robinson, West Chester
“My daughter is in the West Shore School District. Virtual learning is a joke and a waste of time. The only good that comes from it is the ability to count it towards the total days required. As for learning, that’s not happening on any level.”
-Kristen Kocher, Camp Hill
“Let the kids and teachers enjoy the sparkle of snow. Take the day off.”
-Peggy Myers, State College
“I believe it’s very important for kids these days to be a kid so I feel they should have the day off completely. How sad for them to always be pushed to learn. Kids need good, old-fashioned fun away from laptops and cell phones!”
-Barbara Gulbish, Trappe
“Give the kids a day off! Nothing like a snow day!”
-Gregory Kerr, Coopersburg
“Give the kids and the teachers the day off! Everybody needs a break every once in a while. Give them a day to play in the snow or just cozy up at home!”
-Cynthia McCracken, NW Pa.
“I say give the kids and teachers the day off. Enough to deal with, don’t add trying to get school work done as well. Especially tough for teachers, parents, and children dealing with special needs!!”
-Gwen Shoemaker, Perkiomenville
“Give the kids and teachers a break on snow days. Kids aren’t paying attention (during) virtual learning. Just make the days up later.”
-Astrida Millwe, Tioga County
“I think if it’s only going to be a day here or there, give them the day off. If it’s a bigger storm that will keep the school closed for a few days, then do part of it virtual, part snow day.”
“Definitely a day off! They work a certain number of missed days into the school-year schedule. Let the kids enjoy the snow! I know I did when I was a kid, and still do!”
-Laraine Mocenigo, Philadelphia
“Snow days should be days off and made up later in the school year. Virtual learning doesn’t work for a large percentage of the students. Didn’t we learn that with the test results following COVID?”
-L. Horne, Johnstown
“Retired teacher here. Let the kids have a free snow day and, if at all possible, call it the night before!”
-Susan Hurley, Western Pa.
“Snow day. Get some hot chocolate, go outside and play, curl up and watch a movie, sleep in, no virtual stuff. You’re only a kid once.”
-Ray Strickland, Macungie
“Snow days are the best treat! We need to keep them!”
-Pat Bigley, Philadelphia
“Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, we all looked so forward to a snow day. I can’t help but wonder who in their right mind would have come up with the idea to make the students home-school on (snow) days. Some have said it’s because people make plans for spring break and don’t want to have them ruined by making up snow days. Well, not everyone has the luxury of being able to go away for spring break.”
-Dick Roloson, Troy
“Although I wish they could do some work virtually, at least half a day, my son is very happy having the day off to play! I use it to “catch up.” I have him practice math, study science, and work on a school project. I tell him it’s an opportunity to get some work done, even though he doesn’t have to, and he gets ahead of the game a little. Then he’ll have less to do later on.”
-Anne Marie, West Bradford
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