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Is the traditional "snow day" a thing of the past?

Sep 15, 2022 11:26AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Aaron Burden

By Jeff Wagner - CBS Minnesota News - September 14, 2022

As students get into the swing of things at school, they're getting a tough reminder that a surprise day off might not be there. 

E-learning is preventing bad weather from fully canceling school.

Is the "snow day" gone forever? Good Question. 

What adults might consider a frigid hassle, children embrace as mother nature's gift.

"You try to call your friends on a landline, and say hey let's meet, we're gonna go sledding," said parent Andrew Wallin as he reminisced about his childhood. "Life shuts down for a bit. Take advantage of it."

Joe Gothard is the superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools, one of many Minnesota districts that's fully adopted e-learning days as a replacement for a day off due to bad weather.

Minneapolis, Edina and Hopkins share the same model, some since before the pandemic began thanks to legislation approving the switch in 2017.

"We look at it as it's not a lost day. There's really a lot of latitude to make that day, you know, whatever we can," said Gothard.

The district provided 40,000 devices, including tablets, to students, teachers, and education assistants to ensure all have e-learning access. He considers it a valuable tool while acknowledging it has some limitations.

"We don't ever expect a snow day, e-learning day, to replace, you know, what an in-person day is. But it does allow our students to remain connected with an educator. It does allow our students to, you know, maintain their work pace and keep things moving," he said.

Staying on track is of utmost importance for students now as recent data from the Minnesota Department of Education shows reading and math scores dropped since 2020.

Still, the sudden surprise of a snow day can bring mental health benefits. Faith Miller, an associate professor of psychology and the University of Minnesota, pointed out research that shows people feel spontaneous time off is more enjoyable than when it's planned. There's also data from a survey that found 48 percent of Americans reported they don't have enough time to do the things they want. 

"Snow days provide that opportunity, that possibility, for obligations to be temporarily abandoned for additional leisure time. Not surprisingly, we find that leisure time is most enjoyable when compared to other activities we engage in," Miller said. That time to ourself can lead to happiness and satisfaction.

The Shakopee School District does retain one traditional snow day, which is used when the first weather related closure happens. Teachers will use that day to prep for future e-learning days.

"The snow day is an essential part of Minnesota culture, and we're happy to keep one day of this tradition," said Superintendent Mike Redmond.

Ja'mes Smith, now a Minneapolis resident, enjoyed snow days during her childhood in Chicago. In her opinion, an e-learning day isn't a total loss of a day off since the assignments and structure isn't as long as a typical school day. Plus, you're already home.

"If you have plans, you're more willing to just get [the school work] done, knock it out and then continue about your day," she said.

Not all districts have made the switch to e-learning on snow days, including Anoka-Hennepin Schools, the state's largest district.

Experts also say some don't have the funding to equip students with the necessary devices, and not all families have internet access at home.

To read this original story and more news, follow this link to the CBS Minnesota News website.

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