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Snow Days and Zoom


Has Zoom killed snow days?  And should it?


For the last few days, meteorologists have been warning people in the Northeast to batten down the hatches, repent their sins, and fortify against a nasty storm.  As I write, it’s snowing sideways with some force.  The Girl’s school has already declared a snow day for Thursday.  


The Girl has been attending school remotely this semester anyway, but the superintendent there has declared that even remote classes will shut down for the snow day.  It’s a sweetly nostalgic gesture.  TG is excited that she can sleep late and bake cookies, both of which strike me as excellent ways to spend a snow day.


When I was a kid, snow days meant listening intently to the radio as the announcer read the alphabetical list of school districts.  If you tuned in at the wrong time, that meant enduring the rest of the alphabet before it circled around again.  (If it started with Bushnell’s Basin, I knew I’d have to wait 26 letters before Brockport came up again.  If it started with Brighton, I was golden.)  I remember the joy and/or bitter disappointment upon hearing the verdict.  At that age, a snow day was an unalloyed good.


As an adult and an employee, a snow day is more of a mixed bag.  Part of that has to do with the snow itself, of course; a blizzard is more fun when it means “snow fort” than when it means “snow blower.”  But part of it has to do with the work itself.  It doesn’t go away.  Worse, snow days can create logistical nightmares.  If you want to see a VPAA break out in a cold sweat, just utter the phrase “blizzard during final exam week.”  


I wince even typing that.


Now we’re conducting most classes remotely, so unplowed streets aren’t as relevant.  As long as the power stays on and the internet keeps working — which is the secular version of “good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…” — then most of the daily work can happen.  That means fewer disruptions to schedules, and less chaos when we return.


It also means, no freebie.  If you’re tethered to a laptop either way, then a snow day is mostly notional.  What could feel, sometimes, like an act of grace is lost to constant productivity.  


That seems particularly dispiriting this year.  Just about everybody I know is dragging at some level from the sheer demands of the pandemic.  Vacation days pile up unused because there’s no way to use them.  “Days off” don’t really exist when so many unprecedented issues keep popping up that need quick resolution.  And that’s for those of us lucky enough to have jobs that we can do largely from home.  At a time when breaks would matter more, one historic source of them is suddenly in danger.


Were this a more normal time, the loss of a snow day or two probably wouldn’t matter as much.  But this is the least normal year I can remember.  


Not having to sit through the entire alphabet anymore is progress.  Losing snow days entirely, though, may not be.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2020
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Wednesday, December 16, 2020