We Can’t Lose Snow Days to iSelectLearning



I was sitting at my desk around noon yesterday when I first heard whisperings of a Nor’easter. Like any child (or child at heart), I was overwhelmed with excitement — the 12+ inches of snow predicted to hit Southeastern Pennsylvania would bring a day of fun and adventure, thrilling feats of daring followed by evenings sipping hot cocoa by the fire. Or at least, that’s what it used to mean. My elation was quickly followed by dread: what does our iSelectLearning model mean for snow days?

For reasons both practical and humane, we cannot lose snow days during online school. Although some may argue that it’s necessary to get in all of the class time possible as we close out this strange year, attending online school during “epic snowfalls” still puts students at risk for falling behind. While the danger of traveling to school is no longer a worry for most families, many students will have compromised internet access during a storm of this size. According to the National Weather Service, the Southeast Pennsylvania area is at high risk for power outages. Members of our community with lower WiFi quality will be hurt most by the storm, furthering the internet-related inequalities of online learning. Students unable to attend class will find themselves behind their classmates, causing more stress as we head into winter break. Even students who are able to attend online classes expect to face difficulty concentrating on schoolwork in the event of a snow storm. Peter Ryan ‘21 says, “It’s hard enough for students to focus on a regular day of online learning — how are we supposed to hold our attention against the prospect of sledding?”

Just as important as the pragmatic side of this issue is the human side. Ask anyone, no matter their age, for a favorite snow day memory. Their eyes will sparkle and their faces will light up as they share some of the fondest moments of their childhood. Rachel Luce ‘21 remembers “building snow forts in front of my house.” Elena Milliken ‘22 has a similar memory of building a “massive igloo” with her sister. Lucy Doss ‘21 remembers using her neighbor’s snow-covered cars as playgrounds. Allessandra Yang ‘22 , who generally prefers a cozy snow day spent indoors, looks back on the colossal storm of 2015 when there were so few cars out that she could walk in the middle of the street. Lucy Kelley ‘22 recounts that during one storm when her local ski mountain wasn’t fully opened, “we all just took our sleds up there and went down the moguls.” In my old neighborhood, older kids would build snow ramps for younger children to slide down with their sleds. The snow would exponentially accelerate the process of friendship, creating community in mere minutes.

Faculty have similar stories from their own childhoods. Dean of Students Norman Bayard said this morning in devotions that he was looking forward to a “peaceful snow encounter” with his family. During class today, Brian Kors looked back fondly on the winter of ‘93 when his school was called off for an entire week. Herb Kerns reminisced about when he was in 7th grade and school the next day was called off by 7:00pm. “I was able to go sledding until 1:00am,” he says with a smile. “We came back quite frozen.” 

Some students worry that attending Zoom school on would-be snow days is a slippery slope. Will this set a dangerous precedent for once we return to in-person school? “Once schools start canceling snow days, it’s over,” says Izzy Ebede ‘21. “That’s the end of [childhood] as we know it. Every kid should get to experience a snow day at least once.”

Online learning has all members of our school yearning for real human connections and breaks from the monotony of on-screen life. What better way to build community and create life-lasting memories than a good old-fashioned romp in the snow?