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5 Reasons Educators Are Supposed to Hate Snow Days (but mostly don’t!)

Friday in south Louisiana was a rare and beautiful snowy December day. With Christmas around the corner, and lots of festivity in the air, the added excitement of this unusual event and the beauty of the snow-covered scenes, made for fun snowman building, thrown snowballs, and a good excuse to relax by the fire.

A couple of years ago, CNN published an article, by Jamie Gumbrecht, entitled 5 Reasons Schools Hate Snow Days. Although this may be true of some schools in some places, it certainly isn’t really true in south Louisiana. Here, as we are more likely to have hurricane or flood days that necessitate closing, the rare snow day is quite exciting. And CNN must not have interviewed the educators I know when they wrote this, because an unexpected day off is a rare and happy treat for most, as long as people are safe. Kids and teachers alike are often anxiously awaiting the good news of an unexpected closing. However, the valid reasons Gumbrecht gave as problematic for schools are these:

  • “Forecasts can be wrong.”

Yes, administrators have to make a timely call to ensure safety. That often means the “better safe than sorry” approach. Consequently, forecasts that miss the mark, may cause needless closures. However, any principal who has had to try and get kids safely back home, when weather forces dangerous situations, can understand and appreciate an early and timely call.

  • “Parents hate snow days, too.”

Unexpected school holidays are a hardship for working parents, no doubt. The cost of child care, ability to procure appropriate care, or the loss of vacation time or pay is truly problematic. Again, the flip side of that can be disastrous. Gumbrecht cited the situation in Atlanta in 2014 when the district chose to not close, snow rolled in, and the highways were in gridlock for hours. Tens of thousands of students were stranded. Many slept at school that night.

  • “Closures can be costly.”

Closures can necessitate storm cleanup expenses. Damage often results in increases in property insurance. As an administrator in south Louisiana, post Hurricane Katrina we had an unbudgeted increase that tripled the premium from the prior year. Also, some funding is based on days that schools are in session, so this can impact the budget in other ways as well.

  • “Students could go hungry.”

This is the one that has always worried me the most. I previously taught students who came from a very low socio-economic background. On school days, they had the benefit of breakfast, lunch, and an afterschool snack, sometimes the only food they had all day. During summers or long holidays, meals were served at sites in the neighborhood so they had access to good nutrition. However, an unexpected day off means kids go home sometimes to a home without additional resources or transportation, so food may be scarce. Hunger among children in America is a staggering reality.

  • “Closing school means less time to learn.”

Instructional time is at a premium in all schools. Even one day off causes tight instructional schedules to shift. Teachers may then have to reteach a concept when school resumes, or in the case of long closures, really replan and reorganize instruction.

These are all valid and serious concerns. But for the rare snow day we get every few years in Louisiana, despite some of the concerns, we take a moment to enjoy the beauty of nature, in all its wonder on a quiet, snow covered December day, with flakes falling gently around us. And hopefully, we take a moment to revel in it with family or friends, by letting the child within throw a snowball, build a snowman, make a snow angel, or just absorb the magic of the unexpected moment.