Throughout the winter season, the ground is often blanketed in white and children can be seen laughing and playing outside; however, with the serenity and beauty of snow comes the prominent issue of snow days. In addition to snow, snow days are also used for ice, hail and other emergent weather conditions. Evidently, the five snow days currently allocated for MCPS are not sufficient. Some of our neighboring counties, such as Loudoun County and Fairfax County, have 15 and 10 built in snow days, respectively. Only rarely do these counties have to extend the school calendar to make up for lost days.
Snow days are essential; besides ensuring safety on the roads for students, staff and parents, they also provide much needed time for the students and teachers in terms of catching up on assignments. Consecutive school weeks can be extremely tiring and stressful for students who simply just want to a chance to relax. Snow days provide students with the opportunity for much needed sleep and a chance to catch up on any homework or prepare more for tests and quizzes. Seeing as it only snows during one season of the entire year, students should have the opportunity to enjoy the weather, whether it’s sledding with their friends or skiing with their family. Snow days allow students and parents to take time out of their busy schedules to relax and enjoy the snow. The unfortunate fact is, with the very few snow days we have, MCPS is oftentimes discouraged from using snow days, which could not only put our students and staff in harm’s way but also forgo the break that we all need every once in a while.
With the required amount of hours needed in a school year, it may seem difficult to add any more built in snow days. However, in the past couple of years, many of the days that have gone over the limit have been waived by the state, meaning that we wouldn’t have had to make them up anyways. Furthermore, the process of extending the school calendar in case of extra snow days is inefficient and practically useless. These days are usually added to the first week of summer vacation, when most people already have either camps or vacations planned. Teachers don’t teach any new material and the days are just spent doing meaningless crossword puzzles or watching movies. Essentially, any ‘instructional time’ that was missed is not compensated for when these snow days are added back to the calendar since final exams are over and there is no instruction left to teach.
Looking at the past few years, it’s becoming apparent that a change has to be made. There are ways for Montgomery County to be able to add snow days to their calendar without missing any instructional time, like Loudoun County does. “[LCPS has] this many snow days, not because they are actually scheduled for 15 more days than is required, but because of the length of the school days. So, they accumulate enough ‘hours’ to allow them to take 15 snow days,” explained Vicky Chrisner of Loudoun County. Essentially, if just 10 minutes were added to each day of the school year, we could easily accumulate enough instructional hours to pre-allocate 10 or even more snow days.
Today, the issue of snow days has become an issue of safety, mental health and academic integrity. Montgomery County Public Schools should take to the example that their neighboring counties have set and allocate more snow days for their students and staff.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Valerie Wang of Richard Montgomery High School