Editorial: Death of the snow day

Posted 1/13/22

The pandemic introduced a few silver linings. Remote learning is sort of, kind of, one of them.

Across America, schools figured out how to conduct themselves when no one was in the school …

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Editorial: Death of the snow day


The pandemic introduced a few silver linings. Remote learning is sort of, kind of, one of them.

Across America, schools figured out how to conduct themselves when no one was in the school buildings and everyone was home. Some even figured out how to do it well.

But remote learning is almost never better than the real thing for the majority of students. Remote learning is Plan B, a fallback from the real thing, a close approximation of how education works best.

So why did Bristol Warren and a handful of other public school districts opt for remote learning last Friday?

Everyone knew there was a big storing coming at the end of last week. By last Thursday evening, most of Rhode Island’s private schools, its Catholic schools and a third of its public schools had decided to close for the day on Friday. It was the right call under the circumstances.

Schools around the region had literally staggered back to class on the Monday after New Year’s weekend. Omicron cases were spiking throughout society, hordes of kids of all ages (vaccinated or not) were popping up positive, teachers were stressed, nursing offices were overrun, and by the time the year’s first big snowstorm was driving across the country, everyone needed a break.

It was an absolutely perfect time to declare a snow day. Instead, Bristol Warren and many of their peers, including Barrington, declared a distance learning day. Teachers, including those sick and feeling the effects of Covid, had to spit out remote learning plans, and students had to log into their Chromebooks, watch the flakes fall and attempt to focus on their learning.

Often those efforts were half-hearted. Many teachers, resentful that they were forced to work on what should have been a day off, gave their students a creative assignment: go outside and play. That’s an appropriate response under the circumstances, but it leads to an obvious question: what’s the point?

Public schools are required by law to educate their students 180 days each school year. Keeping in mind that many of those 180 days are already wasted — the day before a long vacation, the first few days in August, the last few days in June — every remote learning “snow day” is another day of lost education.

This is true for almost every student, and it is doubly true for special education students. Their in-person learning environments, where students often receive one-on-one supports, interventions from trained specialists and adapted learning plans, simply do not translate into the virtual world.

So why do parents and school committees allow this to happen? Why does last Friday count toward the 180-day goal? Why is this the new normal?

2023 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.