Teachers have mastered the challenges of remote learning, and students have grown accustomed to Zooming into classrooms from their kitchen tables.
But as much as education has changed in the past year, one custom appears harder to break — snow days.
Many school districts across the state are declaring what for generations has been perhaps the single most joyful aspect of childhood education — the snow day.
Other schools, however, are calling today [Tuesday] a remote-learning day, meaning that snowbound students will be logging into lessons as if it were a balmy May morning.
“You can’t win, no matter what you do canceling school for weather. Somebody’s going to be upset,” said Rich Cahoon, chairman of the ConVal School District in Peterborough. That means, he said, officials can do what they think is best.
Today will be a remote-learning day for the 2,100 ConVal students. They will be expected to log on and participate in class, as they did during the pandemic last year. That’s more of a disruption for ConVal elementary and middle school ConVal students, who attend traditional classes. High school students are on a hybrid schedule.
Other districts, especially larger districts whose students are either in full or hybrid remote learning, maintain traditional snow days.
“Kids need to get off their screens, take a deep breath and just be a kid,” said Mike Fournier, superintendent at Bedford schools, though as of midafternoon Monday, he had not called a snow day.
Fournier said Bedford schools called a snow day on Dec. 17, and general feedback from parents was positive.
More school districts appear to be keeping with traditional snow days, for this storm at least.
According to cancellations reported by WMUR-TV as of midafternoon Monday, 33 schools or school districts had canceled classes for today, and 16 had said they would have remote learning.
“It’s all over the map,” said Dr. Carl Ladd, a former superintendent and director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association. He was monitoring a discussion among Lakes Region superintendents on Monday. He said most were leaning toward a traditional snow day.
The heavy snowfall and wind speeds were expected to have the potential to disrupt power or communication lines, meaning students might not have the ability to log on, he said.
Disruption is one of the factors that concerns teachers in Manchester, said Sue Hannan, president of the 1,050-member Manchester Education Association, the teachers’ union in the city.
Power and internet connections can go down. Students and teachers have to clear snow. Routines get interrupted for all sorts of reasons, she said.
That means that some students will get instruction and others won’t, Hannan said. Also, in a topsy-turvy year, snow days provide stability, Hannan said.
“Something we can provide that is absolutely normal for them is a traditional snow day,” Hannan said. She noted that this storm has been forecast for days, and teachers had the ability to assign homework ahead of time.
Last month, the Manchester school board adopted a policy change that includes the words remote-learning day.
Hannan said the teachers’ union is in discussion with the school district about possible revisions to the union contract, which calls for up to five snow days that do not have to be made up.
As of early Monday evening, Manchester Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt had not made an announcement about today.
If he called a remote-learning day rather than a regular hybrid-learning day, it would be a contract violation, Hannan said.
It also would irk Lizzy Voisine, the mother of a Manchester middle school and elementary school student. She welcomed the possibility of a snow day today.
“They have so much screen time during the day,” Voisine said. Her son, a student at Parkside Middle School, is on his laptop from 7:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. with a five-minute break to change classes and one lunch break.
She said she wanted them off screens today and reading books, playing with Legos or venturing outside. She is able to work remotely.
At ConVal, Cahoon said the district called a snow day for the December storm, so this is the first remote learning day because of weather. He said a district policy that guarantees a Chromebook for every student ensures that no one will be left behind.
By going remote today, the district hopes the investment will pay off at year’s end.
“We’re trying,” he said, “to avoid them being in school all the way to June.”