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What kids lose and gain with remote school


New York City public schools, the country’s largest school district, canceled snow days when it announced its new 2021-2022 school year calendar.

“On ‘Snow days’ or days when school buildings are closed due to an emergency, all students and families should plan on participating in remote learning,” the city’s school district website stated.

Many waxed nostalgic about snow days on social media and expressed disapproval of the move by NYC public schools. And experts say the change has positive and negative implications for students that have experienced a seismic shift in their schooling due to the pandemic.

“As a retired NYC teacher, I’m appalled by this news,” @hemleeloquy tweeted. “Just let them have their snow day, people. We can’t forget that we were once children.”

“It’s truly unfair that children will not experience the snow day magic I did, which was my sister and me watching hours of TV and being unable to leave our house until our mom came home from work,” @katie_honan wrote on Twitter.

@GabStaton wrote: “If I were a teacher, those kids would be watching me watch TV the whole day.”

Students are more in need of positive experiences than ever to de-stress, according to Prerna Arora, an assistant professor of school psychology at Columbia University.

“If we’re not getting those via activities such as snow days, where students have historically been known to be able to play with friends … it’s going to be critical for schools and families to make sure that students can (receive) that kind of support in other avenues,” Arora says.

However, continuous and consistent learning is also essential for children, argues Sandra L. Calvert, a Georgetown University psychology professor.


“I know it’s fun to think, ‘gee, I’m going to get a day off when it snows,’ but you don’t get the day off; you have to make it up,” she says, adding in her view its negative for “the intellectual development of children if they’re out of school a lot, even though it’s fun to go out and sleigh ride and do all those things.”

Some are also losing snow day superstitions.

New York City’s change also signals the end of snow day rituals for kids. Some common snow day superstitions include children wearing their pajamas inside-out for good luck, doing snow dances, and staying glued to news tickers for snow day announcements.

For Patrick Murphy, snow days remind him of growing up in Guilderland, New York, in the 1970s. “We would get all bundled up to spend the day outside,” Murphy, 56, says. “The schools didn’t close too often. It would take about a foot of snow, at least. But the days off were magic!”

Murphy, who now lives in Arvada, Colorado, recalls getting up early and listening to the school cancellation list on the radio. When there was enough snow, that meant helping his dad clear it.

As soon as the driveway was set, he enjoyed a day full of sledding; about 15 or 20 kids would gather on the neighborhood hills.

“About the time our limbs were going numb, we would head home to warm up and get dry with hot chocolate or soup,” he says. “That’s not exactly what kids camped in front of a laptop will experience.”

That may be true – but given the academic rigor and expectations of the education system, Calvert says many students have much catching up to do after a year interrupted by the pandemic.


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