This time last year, many students were flushing ice cubes down their toilets and wearing their pajamas inside out in hopes of a snow day.
If their lucky rituals worked, students would wake up the next morning to look out the window and see snow falling from the sky. An inches deep layer of powdery snow on the ground meant school was canceled for the day. An extra day to finish that homework assignment, study for that big test or just sip some hot chocolate in the warmth of their homes.
With the colder months rapidly approaching and COVID cases on the rise, CPS administrators made the decision to not have snow days during distance learning. Students are expected to attend virtual classes and complete the school day as normal.
Staff members are to “report to the building or work remotely, as previously scheduled for that day” as described on Cincinnati Public Schools website. More details regarding severe weather policies with updated information on distance learning are available on CPS’ website.
Public schools around the state and nation have made different decisions on whether or not to keep snow days during the 2020-2021 school year. These decisions have taken into account each district’s current learning environment whether that is fully remote, blended or completely in person.
According to a Chatterbox survey of 121 people, WHHS students were almost evenly divided on the subject with 52 percent of students not agreeing with CPS’ decision. Many of the concerns brought up include not having days off for mental health breaks, power outages, extra time with family and simply giving students an unexpected break from school.
“I feel as though during a normal school year, snow days were mental health days in a way so now that we don’t have them, our only time to get somewhat of a healthy mental state is during holiday breaks but so much happens then we truly don’t get time to reset our minds,” SENIOR Nadyaa Betts said.
Betts isn’t the only one who believes snow days served as a mental health break for students. Many others believe students’ mental health wasn’t taken into account when making the decision.
School social worker for WHHS and Dater Montessori, Christine Miller agreed, “I feel so much has been taken from our students this school year that if there happened to be a day of substantial winter weather, they should be given the time to be a kid and enjoy it,” she said, “When I was in school I remember how excited I was to watch the news before school on snowy days hoping my school would be called off for the day. It’s a much needed mental health day provided by Mother Nature and I’m sad our students (and staff!) won’t get that this year.”
Some students and staff agreed with not having snow days during remote learning. Most argued that snow days occur when transportation to and from school isn’t safe and because students aren’t going to school they are no longer necessary. A few also believed that since instructional time with teachers is already limited further cutting that down isn’t fair to the students or teachers.
“Although getting a break to play in the snow would be lovely and a great way to have a bit of normalcy, that does mean that it would take away from our already limited time learning and might cause some teachers to have to cover their curriculum in less time than those topics require. This especially applies to AP classes and other classes with advanced curriculum,” Margaret Flanders, ‘22, said.
Others agree, “Even though I would love to not have a day of school because of snow, it doesn’t seem necessary since we are doing school remotely on the computer and we don’t need to drive to school,” Macy Brown, ‘24, said.
In the end, administrators made the decision they thought was best for both students and staff throughout the district. Staff member Sandee Coats-Haan said she doesn’t feel it’s fair to criticize any of the difficult decisions being made by the leadership and that there aren’t any easy answers.
“They want to keep staff and students safe and they want to provide the best education possible,” Coats-Haan said, “Having a snow day will always be magical and I could support having them in remote learning because it would be good for everyone’s mental health. But at the same time, how do they justify canceling school to parents who are desperate for kids to return to school. And what about the lonely kid who only has a chance to connect with others in class… this is a very difficult time to be an administrator.”
Despite not having any unexpected days off this year, students will still have breaks, weekends and a few scheduled holidays to look forward to. When CPS switches back to an in-person learning model, snow days will return for students and staff alike.
“I think we all deserve the opportunity to sleep in, eat pancakes in our PJs and play in the snow,” WHHS teacher Christine Betz said.