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Everyone Deserves a Snow Day

Virtual learning shouldn’t cancel this tradition for kids — and adults need the break as well

Nothing about school has been normal this year, and we can only guess at the long-term effects of extended virtual learning for kids. But even early on, things sounded grim — beyond the educational worries, children need a social life, friends and extracurricular fun. The isolation has taken its toll. And this winter, many students will be denied another joy of youth: the snow day.

It stands to reason that if you’re holding classes on Zoom, and already worried about kids falling behind in coursework due to the circumstances, you’ll be disinclined to cancel school on a random weekday just because it’s snowing outside. That, however, is the bureaucratic, soul-deadening choice. The snow day tradition is about more than practical considerations of icy sidewalks and blocked doors. In point of fact, on the average snow day — when there was decent accumulation but nothing like a dangerous blizzard — it was quite possible to get around town, and almost everything remained open. But youths were released from all obligations.

And some districts still want them to experience that freedom, regardless of remote teaching:

This is the right call, and an easy one. A snow day weaves the magic of surprise and luck into the fabric of an ordinarily rote schedule. It pays homage to the whims of nature, allowing a special communion with one’s environment. Best of all, it has metaphorical power: The snow is a canvas of possibility, with children set loose to devise their own plans and ambitions for the hours ahead. A crucial life lesson, wouldn’t you say? Sledding, skating, snowball fights and snow sculptures, shoveling sidewalks for a few dollars — you are master of your destiny.

I still remember, in the evening of a magical high school snow day, standing in the empty, frozen street and kissing my girlfriend before we turned our eyes to the dome of purple clouds above.

The heightened morale and self-discovery that come with this interlude are so valuable that a snow day shouldn’t depend on climate, age or occupation. When winter rolls in and the daylight grows short, everyone deserves an unexpected announcement of liberation, even if it’s (checks weather app) 64 degrees and sunny outside. Because it’s not a weekend, official holiday or vacation plotted months in advance, you have no choice but to improvise with your time. It’s when you start to answer the question: “If you didn’t have to work to pay the bills, what would you do?”

After a brutal 2020, that’s rest we could all use, but it shouldn’t be established on the circumstance of a pandemic, either. Humans must guarantee themselves such an opportunity.

As for exactly how we might enact a universal snow day… well, I admit the logistics are complex. For the moment, the closest thing most of us have is faking sick, and it doesn’t hit the same at all. If, however, by some bizarre sequence of events I wind up elected president, you can count on a snow day by executive order within the first weeks of my administration. It’s that important. These are the days that remind us who we are, and make us better people. Let the kids go play, and let the adults forget their email inboxes.

Nothing can’t wait till tomorrow.