There is no better feeling in the world than waking up to a Ryan McElveen alert that school has been canceled due to snow. But be careful – your snow days are under assault.
The advent of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought rise to a new movement to cancel snow days. That movement has already stomped its boots in the snow of Fairfax County.
On Dec. 16, 2020, an inch of snow fell from the sky and stuck to streets and sidewalks across the county. Rather than following the normal procedure of canceling or delaying school, FCPS held out and continued the school day. The week of February 1, when Northern Virginia saw the most snow we’ve ever seen in two years, FCPS repeated their mistake of not canceling school, while neighboring school districts in Falls Church, Prince William and Loudoun made the right decision and canceled school.
Removing snow days during distance learning is one thing, but because schools have now figured out a way to continue classes virtually, there is a growing movement to permanently end snow days, even after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia Delegate Joseph McNamara (R-Roanoke) already introduced a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that would allow school districts to opt for virtual learning instead of closing schools during severe weather events.
McNamara’s bill passed the House of Delegates on a 75-25 vote, but not without controversy. Notably, Delegate Marcus Simon, who represents a large chunk of the Marshall attendance zone, including the Marshall election precinct, led the opposition to the bill and stalled it for several days. “Just because we can do something doesn’t always mean we should,” Simon said on Twitter.
Virginia House Republicans have labeled Simon’s opposition as obstructionist, tweeting Simon “Know[s] what they’re saying isn’t true, but continue to spread misinformation.” McNamara has stated his bill will not end snow days, rather it will give schools the option of switching to virtual learning instead of adding makeup days at the end of the school year.
But McNamara’s argument is completely misinformed of the fact that FCPS policy, since I’ve been in the fifth grade, has been that we can have up to 19 snow days without adding a single makeup day to the end of the year.
McNamara’s bill has already passed the House and the Senate, but there’s still one more step in the legislative process. Governor Ralph Northam should veto this disastrous bill and protect snow days. Northam is currently barred from seeking re-election as Governor; if he wants to follow in the footsteps of Virginia Governors before him – Warner, Kaine, and McAuliffe – and someday run for office again, he’s going to depend on the support of the future voters who are students now and want to protect snow days. Students shouldn’t be robbed of the excitement of waking up to realize they can spend the day building snow forts and sleeping in.