COVID-19 and online interaction has taught us one particular lesson: Nothing is sacred. One crucial adaptation that was mourned this winter across the nation? We killed the snow day.
As we saw last week, snow hasn’t gone anywhere, but we’ve lost one of the sacred rituals of academic life—having a day off school when it’s snowy. With the adoption of online learning, many would argue that the snow day just isn’t necessary. After all, the primary pragmatic justification of cancelling classes, that the roads weren’t navigable under the adverse weather conditions, is moot when anyone can log onto Webex from the comfort of their own homes and dorm rooms. That said, I think this misses a number of other justifications for the snow day, both pragmatic and otherwise.
One particularly good reason to keep the snow day alive is pretty straightforward: students have responsibilities at home. I personally spent much of our most recent snowstorm shoveling snow. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, as students in classes often reported either just returning from outside, or their intention to head there after the lecture was over. Some students shovel for their neighbors as well which can take a lot of time out of the day which would normally be used for instruction and homework. I know I’ve already missed classes due to shoveling. Obviously shoveling is not the only responsibility that students have, nor does every student have that responsibility, but I think it is enough to suggest practical benefit of a snow day.
Of course, I would be amiss to not opine about some of the less practical aspects of the snow day. For instance: having fun. Being inside while the snow piles on is definitely a morale-killer for many students and people in general. While I’ve not been to the university in-person this semester, I can distinctly remember the many snow objects that are made by students all over campus. There were snowball fights on the green next to Cypress Hall, snowmen in front of Laurel and messages sneakily carved out of the snow on the soccer pitch next to the WEC. It was lighthearted fun, and while these things have undoubtedly happened again despite the coursework, wouldn’t it be nice to have one less thing to worry about for a day?
I’m not opposed to change. At the right time, change can be a great thing. Moving to a converged model of teaching was the type of positive change which allowed students to continue studying despite the deadly pandemic in which we find ourselves. That said, not all change is good, and I really think that removing the snow day in favor of online learning is a change for the worst. In such an unprecedented time, I would hope we could find little ways to cling to whatever normalcy might be left, and I’m convinced that keeping the snow day is one of those ways, especially as one of the most socially distanced activity that unites students of all ages back to nature and to each other. I hope it is premature to declare the death of the snow day, but if it is too late, I hope I speak for many in declaring: you will be missed.