The blurry future of snow days

Rachel Strong '20, Staff Writer

Living in Michigan, students expect the occasional snow day. This translates to sleeping in, hanging out with friends and hours of sledding and snowball fights. However, attending school in 2020 is different than anyone could have imagined. With students across the state learning virtually this year, many wonder how the district will handle inclement weather and school closures.

“(Whether we have snow days) is going to depend on the same factors we’ve been through before, in the past we’ve tried to call school off for the next day so parents, students, and teachers know that we’re going to have a snow day,” Superintendent Gary Niehaus said. “But since we’re online, it would seem that we could do a virtual event.”

Niehaus said that the situation will become more complicated when the district transitions to hybrid learning.

“When you’re in hybrid and you’re going back and forth, you’re probably going to be taking computers back and forth,” Niehaus said. “It’s going to be a lot easier to not have a snow day than it would be if you’re in school every day, but if you forget to take your computer home or you leave it at school it will make things more difficult.”

According to the Michigan Department of Education, districts are allowed to be forgiven for six days of closures due to conditions beyond their control such as weather and power outages before having to make up lost instructional days.

“If we’re at 12 a.m that night and we get six inches of snow by 6 p.m, it’s going to be more difficult to light that up because a lot of times, teachers will not have their materials or computer at home, same would be with students,” Niehaus said. “I think it’s going to depend on when the snow comes and how much planning we can give to teachers and students as we make those decisions.”

Grace Whittemore ’21 said that she doesn’t believe there will be snow days this year since the district is currently online.

“I honestly don’t think we will have snow days this year,” Whittemore said. “We are already learning from home and there is no reason for us to go outside, so I don’t think it’s necessary for a snow day to be called.”

However, Whittemore said there are certain circumstances that should influence the district into calling a snow day.

“Power outages would give the district a good reason to call a snow day,” Whittemore said. “I also know we are planning on moving to hybrid later this year, so students and staff will be going into school, so once that happens I think the possibility of snow days will go up.”

Lielyn Mercer ’21 said she also believes that snow days won’t happen this year, but also thinks there might be conditions that would affect the decision.

“I think that if none of the teachers could get to school or to wherever they teach from it could become a problem,” Mercer said.

According to Mercer, she’s noticed that the discussion of snow days isn’t as popular this year compared to past years.

”I haven’t heard a lot of people here talk about snow days because I think we’re all on the same page,” Mercer said. “But I do know that my cousin’s school, in Grand Rapids, had to call a snow day since half of them are in school and half of them are online. So maybe when we go to (hybrid) learning more people will start talking about it”

Niehaus said he doesn’t know what other districts are planning to do.

“It makes me feel better that other districts don’t know what their plans are either,” Niehaus said.

Niehaus said he knows it’s a tough decision.

“It’s easier to not have a snow day because we do have access to the remote learning and the connectivity that we have,” Niehaus said. “I want to make the right call and I think remote learning allows us to do that easier than we’ve ever been able to do before.”