If you had the choice, would you log into class on a snow day?
By Amelia Schaefbauer & Kylie Meier
The Rapid City Area School System may be creating an alternative to traditional snow days. A couple weeks ago, the weather in Rapid City took a turn for the worst and school was forced to be canceled. However, the Rapid City Area School System decided to create a new opportunity for students: A virtual learning snow day. Students have many mixed opinions on them, as do teachers.
The typical snow days we all know and love, traditional snow days, involve students getting a day completely off from school with no extra schoolwork. Some say this is beneficial for students to get a break, but others say that there are too many and they are harming students’ learning.
“I love traditional snow days because it gives me a chance to rest,” says Stevens High School sophomore, Euana Matute. “ They’re very much beneficial to my mental health.” Matute views snow days as a way to rest. This can especially be beneficial for students who are actively involved in their school and community. Though, others believe that regardless of rest, students need to continue learning.
“I think a lot of snow days are unnecessary and could be two-hour late starts instead,” says Central High School sophomore, Emma O’Loghlen. Many people that take the same stance on the issue believe that there are many alternatives to traditional snow days. Even though snow days can give students extra rest time, many value education and feel that there should be more alternatives to traditional snow days. These include options such as two-hour late starts as O’Loughlen mentioned or virtual snow days.
“ Students do lose learning if school is interrupted too much, but a traditional snow day can be good for mental health,” says Rapid City Area Schools Superintendent, Nicole Swigart. She is in no way against traditional snow days, but believes that too many of them interrupt students’ learning. This could also theoretically be solved with the alternative of virtual snow days or two-hour late starts.
Virtual snow days are some of the most controversial things in the 2023 school year. They involve students getting to stay home, yet they still have to check their school’s programs such as Canvas or Google Classroom to find assignments they have to do while at home. Some students are outraged that they have to go to school. Parents have extra mouths to feed as well. Teachers even have to change up their lesson plans to be suitable for students online. Though, some believe that virtual snow days are still better than traditional snow days. Especially because they don’t completely cease learning aspects.
“We should have virtual snow days because we all have laptops and there’s no reason not to now. A few years ago we didn’t have laptops, but now we have the capability to have a virtual snow day,” says Central High School teacher, Yolanda Usera. She sees technology as a way to prevent traditional snow days from having to happen. If there’s alternatives, then there is no reason not to use them.
However, students can struggle with actually accessing these virtual assignments. According to Claire Comes, a Central High School sophomore, “Sometimes kids don’t have wifi, other kids don’t have resources so there’s a lot of reasons it won’t work.”
Plus, according to Riley Hadorn, a Central High School sophomore, “No kid is going to login to Canvas on a day they get to sleep in.”
Both Comes and Hadorn bring interesting points to the discussion. They believe that assignments are hard to access. If students don’t have access to wifi, it becomes impossible to even do their schoolwork. Motivation can also be a very hard thing to get. When a student wakes up in the comfort of their own home, they don’t feel like they are in a school setting and therefore don’t want to do their assignments.
There may be a way to go about an in-between option. This would be a two-hour late start. In these, students show up to school two hours after they normally would in an attempt for the school systems to allow roads to clear or weather conditions to improve. These are not nearly as controversial as the debate between virtual and traditional snow days. They can, still, be an inconvenience to everyone as they disrupt the normal schedule.
Most believe that there is little wrong with them. “I feel like my brain works better during them. I’m not as tired by the end of the school day. I also feel we get more work done trying to cram the lessons,” says Central High School sophomore, Elizabeth Colombe. Though cramming lessons may not be the best idea, students are still getting work done during these school days. They are also not as exhausted by classes since they have less time in them.
Contrary to popular belief, the types of snow days are decided with a lot of thought and thorough decision making. According to Swigart, the RCAS Superintendent, “I have the final say on snow days, but I rely on a team to help make that decision. I take everything I hear into consideration before I make a decision.” Swigart makes sure that anything is taken into consideration. She believes that there are many factors to view and though she has the final decision, she makes sure to consult a team of people as well as local TV and weather stations.
Whether it’s a traditional snow day, virtual snow day, or even a two-hour late start, the Rapid City Area School Systems try their best to make school days adequate for students and teachers alike. These snow days can be controversial and many people have opinions on them, but that doesn’t mean for certain that any specific ones are going away. They each have benefits and harms. It all comes down to a bunch of factors, especially weather. These factors are what truly influence the decision of snow days, regardless of what people may think.