It seems unlikely that filling an unexpected day off with online work is going to help students catch up academically; the reason so many are so far behind in the first place is that remote school is ineffective. The beauty of a snow day, by contrast, is irreplaceable, and our kids also have to catch up on good memories.
The trauma of the last year, said Bowman, “has more of a lasting impact than the learning loss.” What professionals call “adverse childhood experiences” have far-reaching consequences on academic achievement, but also on health and emotional stability.
“We have to be trauma-informed as we go back into school,” said Bowman. “And trauma-informed is not, ‘More work to catch them up so that we can close the learning gap.’”
To deal with that gap, Bowman argues, schools need funding to put more teachers into classrooms to give kids more individual instruction. “But in terms of the trauma, play is going to be a very important part of dealing with this trauma. Friendships are a very important part,” he said.
The Department of Education insists that the calendar has given it little option but to eliminate snow days. Because of the timing of Labor Day and Rosh Hashana, as well as teachers’ contractually mandated preparation period, the new school year won’t start until Sept. 13. There’s also a new holiday, Juneteenth. The state mandates 180 instructional days before the end of Regents exams, which in 2022 will be on June 24. If the city comes up short, officials say, it could lose tens of millions of dollars in state funding.
“We are sad for a year without snow days but we must meet the state mandate and we can leverage the technology we invested in during the pandemic so our students get the instructional days required by the state,” Danielle Filson, press secretary for the D.O.E., told me.
But this simply means that the fault is with Albany. The state’s inflexibility is not only taking from kids something they love, but making it impossible for families that loathed remote learning to put it behind us. If meeting a rigid 180-day benchmark means forcing children to relive an experience from the pandemic rather than play in the snow, then the benchmark is a problem.
It’s the worst kind of bureaucratic thinking to assume that just because you had to spend money on technology, you should use it, even if it makes people’s lives worse.
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