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

Posted

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?

2022 by East Bay Newspapers

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Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Media Group team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaymediagroup.com.