News & Politics

The Death of the Snow Day Continues

Alexandria asks students to take devices home when snow is in the forecast.

Children sled in Washington, DC, in the early 20th century. Photograph by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress.

Alexandria wants public school students to remember to bring their Chromebooks and other learning-facilitation devices home when wintry weather is in the forecast. The school system, as Alexandria Living reported, wrote that doing so “will ensure that students have the necessary materials at home for virtual learning if schools must close due to winter weather conditions.”

Translation: Don’t count on a snow day, kids.

Among the pandemic’s many privations for kids last year was that it made snow days unnecessary—as the thinking goes, if teachers and kids can already work from home, why cut learning that you’ll only have to make up later? Montgomery County toyed with the idea of getting rid of them last year, as did school systems around the US. Virginia passed a law last year that made it easier for districts to declare a “virtual learning day.” Other localities said no: Mahwah Township in New Jersey, USA Today reported, said it would preserve snow days as “chances for on-site learners and virtual learners to just be kids by playing in the snow, baking cookies, reading books and watching a good movie.”

Indeed, the delight of a snow day is in being unexpectedly let out of your obligations due to something completely outside anyone’s control. For parents, it can be a far less joyous matter, particularly for people with young kids suddenly jacking you for snacks and screen time while you’re trying to work. Still, the urge to cut snow days comes at time when kids are very definitely not okay: As US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy wrote in an advisory published this week, “The pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced.”

Another stress felt deeply by many young people is climate change, which has its own way of screwing with snow days, particularly in the DC area, where the amount of “normal” snow in a season keeps dropping.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.