No More Snow Days? NYC Schools Say Remote Learning Eliminates the Need.

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(The Washington Post) — New York City’s public-school students will be deprived of their much-coveted snow days – perhaps forever, an education official said on Tuesday.

“There are technically no more snow days,” David C. Banks, the city’s Department of Education chancellor, said in an interview with WNYW’s “Good Day New York.”

He explained that the remote-learning technology implemented during the coronavirus pandemic will allow students to continue their studies on days when the snow is too heavy for them to commute to school – when kids might have ordinarily gone sledding with their friends.

“So, sorry kids – no more snow days, but it’s going to be good for you!” he said.

New York City public schools first scrapped snow days in 2020 amid the first year of the pandemic and continued the policy into the following school year, citing the need to meet the state’s requirement of 180 days of learning per year.

The city’s Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.

School districts in other states have also done away with snow days, though some places – including Washington, D.C. – have held onto them. Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, for example, budgeted up to five snow days last year.

Ben Blair, the principal of Rogers Park Montessori in Chicago, told WFLD earlier this year that the days off could be good for students.

“I think there’s value in these moments of reckless, joyful abandon,” he told the station. “Whether flopping in the snow or meeting neighbors out on the street shoveling, that human connection that serendipitously happens during a snow day is fantastic.”

In places with disappearing snow days, the switch has come to the disappointment of students and the opposition of some parents for whom the events are reminders of their own childhoods. The stresses of making sure their children are engaged with remote learning while juggling their own work responsibilities are also top of mind.

At the same time, snow days have been a headache for officials in New York City and other parts of the country who are forced to make tough calls that are often later criticized. Years before the coronavirus pandemic closed schools, officials nationwide had been searching for alternatives to giving students the day off for inclement weather, with some experimenting with remote learning, Edutopia, a publication by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, reported in 2018.

Although Banks said remote learning technology has enabled the transition away from snow days in New York City, some lower-income families have said it doesn’t work for them. In December, five parents sued the city officials, claiming the department supplied them with faulty equipment and offered no technical support. The case is ongoing.

Teachers, meanwhile, have been told to set up a “digital classroom” in which a lesson plan is prepared and ready in case of an emergency closure, a United Federation of Teachers union spokesperson told the New York Post.

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