Are Snow Days Doomed?: A Potential Pandemic Casualty
In past years, snow days have provided a momentary respite to students from their normally busy work-loads, but as distance-learning becomes the norm for students, the fate of snow days hangs in the balance.
The process for deciding whether or not a day will be a snow day normally begins early in the morning, around 5:00 a.m. After sampling various sources for information about the impending weather, Head of School Kai Bynum, Assistant Head of School John Roberts, and Chief Financial and Operating Officer David Baxter, meet to compile their findings. Roberts details, “we have all that information that we push back and forth. [And] the three of us, we talk [from] 5:15 [a.m.] to as long as it takes.” Some of the considerations unique to Hopkins include the geographical diversity of its students, as well as the campus cleanup needed. (For more information on what goes into deciding to have a snow day, check out the article from the February 2020 Razor article: “Snowdays? Snow Problems!”)
With the weather conditions forcing students to stay home, previous years’ snow days are most commonly used to reset and take a breath. Will Schroth-Douma ’23 explains, “In theory, a snow day is above all else a refresher for one’s mental health. It breaks up the monotony of every day, in-person school life just by changing simple things like when you wake up.” Laila Samuel ’23 notes that while she “normally [uses] snow days for homework, [there is also] time to relax.” The effects of a snow day can even stretch into the rest of the week. Samuel observes that snow days often provide an opportunity to “get ahead on homework so the rest of the school week is less stressful.”
Under the current hybrid model, however, students can attend school from the safety of their homes through the use of Zoom, removing many of the obstacles created by bad weather. Still, many Hopkins students are in favor of retaining snow days, arguing that the break provided by snow days is still needed. Erin Low ’22 states, “I definitely think we should keep snow days be-cause it offers a break from the constant stress of school.” Schroth-Douma agrees, declaring that “if anything, no matter how small, can be done to disrupt the rigid, unvaried schedule of distance-learning [...] it ought to be done.”
Some students believe the pandemic has created even more of a reason to retain normal snow days. Emma Yan ’24 believes that “Hopkins should keep [snow days] so that we can still have some kind of normal in [these] crazy times.” This sentiment is echoed by Vedant Aryan ’24, who remarks, “Hopkins should keep ‘normal’ snow days because it’s a fun tradition to uphold.” Jess Horkovich ’22 reflects, “I still get excited whenever I see snow outside and I’d like to spend the day relaxing, just like a Covid-19-free year.”
However, the growing prevalence of Zoom makes virtual learning a potential alternative to the traditional snow day. While deciding what to do on January 26, 2021 (which ended up being an early dismissal), Roberts explains that “there was some interest on the part of a few of us [...] who wanted to [have the] option of saying, hey, well, if it’s sloppy enough, let’s just go virtual.” Roberts warns, though, that adding that fourth option can create “a slippery slope.” He wonders, “When does the weather get you a snow day, and when does it just get you a virtual day?”
Nevertheless, students should stay hopeful about the possibility of future snow days. Roberts emphasizes that “we had gone into this winter with the idea that we would not leverage technology to avoid a snow day [...] My hope is that we stay with that.”