Where Have All the Snow Days Gone? by
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(285 Stories)

Prompted By Snow Day

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I don’t remember snow days when I was in school. That’s because school never closed for snow or cold winter days. We had warm hats, scarves, mittens, boots, and snowsuits. Think Ralph’s little brother in A Christmas Story. And we walked to and from school. So, it’s no surprise that I pulled my three little kids on a sled to school one snowy day so the oldest two could go to school, only to discover school was closed. This was my first encounter with snow days.

From A Christmas Story or how I remember dressing for winter

In my defense, the internet, cell phones, texting, etc. didn’t exist back then. I’m not sure how I was supposed to know it was a snow day. Maybe I missed the call from the school secretary while I was pulling that sled. My memory is that snow days were infrequent for my kids and a fun break from school. Because there so few of them, I don’t recall having to make them up at the end of the school year.

My kids enjoying a snow day, 1978

For my grandkids, snow days were more frequent. In January, 2014, we experienced a snow/cold snap that extended Winter Vacation by several days. At this point, most parents were suffering from frozen spirits and minds, numbed by the challenge of finding even more indoor activities for their housebound children, who had missed 18 days of school and counting … Traditional winter delights were out:

  • No sledding – too cold
  • No ice skating – not only too cold but how to find the ice under all of that snow
  • No field trips – car is also frozen

Indiana grandkids on snow day

That January, my four-year-old grandson “attended” preschool five half-days a week in Indiana. I use the term “attended” loosely because since winter vacation ended January 3, he had gone to school five times. That’s right, he had 14 “snow” days before finally returning to school. That same winter, my local granddaughters spent several days playing in my basement when it was too cold to go outside for a chunk of time that extended Winter Vacation an extra week.

Silly string — fun but what a mess to clean up

That did leave lots of screen (and screaming) time. One of the days, I asked my 7-year-old granddaughter to make a list of what we could do to entertain ourselves while the -45 wind-chill raged outside.  Here’s her 9-point plan:

  1. Bake a challah
  2. Balloons (as in blow up, tie, and hit with an old badminton racket)
  3. Wacky string (to be squirted all over my basement)
  4. Bowling (home plastic version with her keeping score and mysteriously beating her sisters)
  5. Roller blades and scooters (also all over my basement)
  6. Dance to What Does the Fox Say?
  7. Have a pajama party
  8. Watch a movie (maybe The Swan Princess for the 25th time)
  9. Maybe do a hard puzzle or build something with Legos

I bought a plastic ball to roll in, but it broke in one day

My grandkids may have been bored, but at least they were safe. What about all of the kids whose parents didn’t have sitters or grandmothers crazy enough to entertain them? Snow days create tough choices for them. I doubt their employers gave them paid snow days off of work, so they had to choose between non-paid time off work, the threat of losing their job, or leaving their kids home alone. For some children, school is their safe haven and the place where they receive two of their daily meals. Was anyone thinking about them?

I know from 25 years of personal experience as a preschool administrator how hard it is to make the decision to close school. Generally, we did it whenever our local public schools also closed. And that was almost always due to massive amounts of snow and ice making travel dangerous and parking impossible.

On days I kept the school open despite bad weather, mostly because our public schools were also open, teachers were surprised that people showed up – lots of them. Maybe these parents had older kids and were out anyhow. Maybe they had children with special needs for whom a break in the routine was a disaster. Maybe they walked, pulling their kids in sleds, veterans of Chicago-style winters. I made no judgments regarding their decision to come or about parents who opted to keep their children home.

Here’s a great snow day story. The superintendent of Brownsburg, Indiana schools decided to keep schools open on a snowy, cold January day during the years when the weather was more typical of midwestern winters. He was deluged by tweets and Facebook posts decrying the decision. One parent asked, “How would you like to stand at the bus stop with my kids in this weather?” His answer was, “Sure, tell me when and where.”  He showed up at her bus stop with shirts for the kids that said #Bulldog Strong and waited with them for that bus. Bravo for literally taking a stand on this issue.

These days, we have gotten to the point of closing schools based on weather forecasts, which are often wrong. Now that schools, post-pandemic, are capable of having remote learning days, there are even more school closings, but instead of snow days when kids could play outside (weather permitting), they are stuck in front of a computer doing zoom lessons. I think romping in piles of snow or playing in grandma’s basement for a good, old-fashioned snow day is probably better for kids in the long run.

Sliding down the stairs of my deck — more fun than remote learning

 

 

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. I was city born and raised so I pretty much missed out of the ‘great outdoors’ in the winter so I have few childhood winter memories. Christmas sure but otherwise few memories. My exposure to BIG was to come in 1978.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Wonderful pictures! And great descriptions of what to do with the kids at home. Indeed, if they can spend some time outside playing in the snow as well, better than more zoom time. Your insights into the schools’ perspective and the concern about kids for whom school is a lifeline were also very welcome. Thanks for another good story.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Khati. I fear that “remote learning,” which proved to be such a disaster for many children, will make the decision to close schools easier because of the illusion that children are still learning. They’re not.

  3. Thanx for your story Laurie , and of course you’re right about the families that suffer when schools close, not just for snow days, but for holidays and vacations.

    I worked at an inner-city high school in the infamous South Bronx where we not only served the kids free lunch, but also breakfast- a meal many might not have had at home. And because so few parents showed up at open school nights, we began serving hot buffet suppers then to entice more to come.

    Often it’s hard for middle class folks to know how the other half lives.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      You are so right, Dana. Closing schools is a disaster for vulnerable children ho depend on school for food and stability. I think schools in many “woke” communities like mine stayed closed too long for the pandemic. The consequences far outweighed the risks.

  4. Dave Ventre says:

    You reminded me that in my town, if the schools were to be closed by snow, they’d sound the town sirens at 7:00 AM. Us kids, and our parents, all waited in anticipation as 6:58 became 6:59, then approached the fateful hour….

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