For years, kids have counted on getting a day off school whenever there was a bad winter storm. But snow days may be long gone.
With many students already learning from home due to the coronavirus pandemic and an uptick in recent cases, some school districts are making the decision to turn to cyber learning during inclement weather.
“Most districts will probably tell you ‘cold days’ will be a thing of the past,” said Mallory Sribanditmongkol, a spokeswoman for Licking Heights Local School District. “If you know snow is coming, you would likely move to virtual because it’s better for the kids to keep some sort of consistency.”
More:The latest news on Stark County area schools
It’s hard to make a blanket policy on issues like calamity days, especially during 2020 — a year that is teaching everyone the importance of being flexible and adaptive, Sribanditmongkol said.
But the uncertain future of snow days, given schools’ newfound capability for virtual learning, is disappointing for some families.
Mindy Thomas, 35, has three children in the Pickerington school district — a sixth-grader, second-grader and first-grader — who often sleep with their pajamas inside out and a spoon under their pillows during the winter months, superstitions they hope will score them a snow day.
Not this year.
Pickerington schools will require students to attend class from home during calamity days, according to a Nov. 30 announcement by Sabrina Woodruff, the district’s chief academic officer.
“They didn’t even think about it this year,” Thomas said. “It didn’t even cross their minds. The nostalgia standpoint is sad; there’s no snow day anymore.”
In Ohio, school officials can call as many snow days as they want, as long as their district meets the minimum number of instructional hours required for a student’s grade level. In grades K-6, that’s 910 hours (or 455 for half-day kindergarten), and in grades 7-12, it’s 1,001 hours.
Many Stark County school officials said snow days will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
“Like everything else with the pandemic, we know that the situation is fluid and could look different day to day,” said Mary Beddell, spokeswoman for the Plain Local School District. “Our approach for snow days will be the same. Depending on if we are still learning face-to-face or if we are in a position where we needed to move to remote learning, snow days may be addressed differently.”
Sandy Valley Local Superintendent David Fischer believes students still will get at least a few snow days this winter, but they likely won’t see back-to-back snow days as they have in the past. The district likely would move to remote learning on the subsequent days.
“I don’t foresee full weeks of calamity (days),” he said.
While there may not be as many snow days as in the past, Perry Local Schools Superintendent Scott Beatty said there is merit to having a snow day.
Like other educators, he said it will be something they take a day to day look at.
Beatty doesn’t want to see children miss an extended period of time from schools, so remote learning might come into play if there are consecutive snow days.
“My personal opinion is there is a ton of pressure on our children nowadays and currently fear over a pandemic,” he said. “Giving a young person an unexpected break can do wonders for their mental wellbeing. Again, there will be many factors that will play into whether there are instructional requirements during a ‘snow day’ or not.
“The most important factor being the health, safety and educational wellbeing of children. You also need to consider, is the day truly going to be productive for the child or are we just taking steps to get credit for a day?”
Columbus City Schools students already have been learning remotely since mid-March, which means the district can continue to provide instruction in the event of bad weather, spokeswoman Jacqueline Bryant said in an email.
Even after the district shifts to “blended” or in-person classes, the district’s experience with online learning would allow it to pivot to back temporarily and have students work from home instead of calling for a traditional snow day, she said.
Blended learning, also called hybrid learning, is when students attend a combination of in-person and online classes on assigned days each week.
That was the situation in the New Albany-Plain district, which called a snow day on Dec. 1 but moved to virtual learning for the day.
New Albany parent Nwando Olayiwola worries that not having snow days may be difficult for kids.
“They’re having to become really flexible and nimble and adapting to whatever is happening and I think losing that buffer … losing those little sprouts of joy, it may end up being hard for some kids,” said Olayiwola.
She has a ninth-grader and a fifth-grader in the New Albany-Plain district, who experienced their first “virtual snow day” on Dec. 1.
“It didn’t seem like a snow day,” Olayiwola said.
Canton Repository education reporter Kelli Weir, Massillon Independent reporter Amy Knapp and Dispatch reporter Alissa Widman Neese contributed to this story.