The sanctity of snow days is preserved by a community that values safety and mental well-being



A tweet from Superintendent Dan Behm, calling the first snow day of the 2020-21 school year and the first snow day since being shut down last year

Last March, with another one of Michigan’s lagging winters reaching an inevitable end, the Forest Hills Public Schools district had only clocked in one snow day. It was a stark contrast to the “snow week” that had preceded it the year before, and students bore minor grievances with it. 

However, the hope for a hiatus was rekindled with the ubiquitous conversation surrounding a virus that was perceived as a mere news story; the rest is left unsaid. 

A “snow week” was nothing in the shadow of almost an entire semester relegated to basically optional assignments. But by the ringing in of a new school year, the need for such frivolities as a “snow week” had been seemingly erased. 

While it was a trivial matter amidst the perpetual switching of school schedules, snow days appeared to be a thing of the past. Yet, as winter arrived again, this theory was disproved: snow days were to remain “real snow days.”

“When we were in remote learning for all students last spring, students requested over 2,000 computing devices for use at home,” Superintendent Dan Behm explained. “It is difficult to marshal all of these devices and deploy them to students or their household every time we have a snow day.”

This line of reasoning, and others, were considered by Behm and a variety of district administrators, principals, and teacher leaders. Despite the exponential technological advancements in the arena of online learning, the planning can’t be contained to only a few hours notice, especially when all that is at stake is a single day. 

Behm, however, admitted that there are certain conditions that could justify resorting to online learning options in the case of snow-day-worthy weather—if weather is forecasted to be dangerous far enough in advance and for a long enough period of time or if all of the schools in the district were transitioned to online-learning only, he could see the potential for an improvised plan of action, a sentiment that Principal Steve Passinault echoed.

“There was some discussion about it,” Passinault said, “and I think that if we were to have a lot of snow days that there may be some consideration of making them virtual days but we are pretty deep into winter and have had only one.”

The decision was a fairly attractive one, especially considering that online-learning is never the preference; as Behm acknowledged, many students are left straggling behind in the world of virtual school, whether that be attributed to a lack of resources at home or a social learning style. 

And it’s worth recognizing the advantages that a snow day can hold, especially amid the deluge of confusion and demotivation that has accompanied this school year’s chaos. 

“The benefits are to give students and teachers that unexpected break that is good for morale,” Passinault said. “I think both enjoy the needed and unexpected break equally.” 

He was backed up by a surge of students. While it was not uncommon to hear students in classrooms across the school praising this decision, for the sake of their mental stability, a few had more specific thoughts. 

Sophomore Savannah Blue pointed out the need for snow days this year specifically.

“Online school is stressful enough,” Savannah said, “and snow days without work really help to light the load.”

Senior Ana Ahmed emphasized this idea, proving the spread of demographics that share this opinion. 

“I’m glad we’re not doing online [school] on snow days,” Ana said. “This school year has caused everyone excessive stress, and having a day to not have to do school gives everyone a much needed mental break.”

Junior Callum Blackburn talked about the added component of expectation that accompanies snow days, the air of hope, and the joy of sleeping in on a day without many expectations. 

Feeling that his opinions reflected much of the student body, Callum stated, “I feel like it was the right decision just because the majority of students wanted to keep snow days, and the last thing we need right now is more virtual days. Especially right now, everyone’s so stressed out, and it allows students to take just that one day break and brush off all the stress from school.”

And it doesn’t appear that snow days will be going anywhere anytime soon; the safety of students is always a top priority, and because of this, Behm believes that snow days are integral to a culture of community-based schools. And given all the factors, they appear to be worth any cost. 

Snow days are simply one of the little things that stoke the coals of happiness within the harsh storm of chaos and unpredictability. 

Passinault said it best: “We have lost a lot during this pandemic. I am personally glad we didn’t lose snow days.”