When I was a kid, my most memorable days were snow days. I’d wake up in the morning, hear the wind, see the drifting snow and then turn on the radio to listen for bus cancellations. Those were days at home spent building snow forts with friends, staying warm by the fire and drinking hot chocolate — but they were rare.
I was fortunate to have parents who were both teachers. This made my house a destination for other kids, whose parents were grateful to send their children our way as they took snowmobiles to work.
Today, unless you’re set up to work virtually, a snow day can mean you have to take the day off from work — often without pay — which is stressful when your global colleagues and your boss are counting on you. Snow days also mean that children have to catch up on the work they’ve missed, and there’s a real concern — especially in years like this one — that a lot of students will miss out on a lot of important classroom learning because of snow days.
On the other hand, I know from educators and bus companies that these decisions aren’t made lightly. Officials understand that the decision to cancel buses or to close schools can have a significant impact on families. There are many occasions when schools remain open on days with inclement weather, but bus transportation is canceled. However, even in the most densely populated areas, canceled buses usually mean empty classrooms and lost instructional time.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With online learning, education doesn’t have to stop on a snow day. If students have access to a learning platform at home — and if schools have policies and plans in place to continue educational activities online — there is no reason why teachers could not post instructional videos, assignments and tests with the expectation that students will do the work at home.
However, those “ifs” are significant. Education at home works only if the schools and teachers have a plan in place and students have internet access. For example, there are rural, northern and underserviced Canadian communities that don’t have the kind of broadband infrastructure needed to support online learning — making snow day instruction impractical. That’s one more reason governments and businesses need to do more to ensure adequate internet service for all communities.
Imagine, though, a time in the not-too-distant future — once the infrastructure is in place in even the remotest communities — when learning won’t have to stop for snow. I’m proud to see that this is already the case for many of our customers. Teachers and students can still interact, ensuring that their education doesn’t skip a beat.
For now, though, let’s remember the reason schools or buses are canceled in the first place — safety. Obviously, it would be great if all schools and every community were set up to provide online snow day instruction to students. But we’re not there yet, and as a parent, I still feel it’s far better for a child to miss a day of school than to risk an accident on the road.
And maybe a day to make snow forts together, drink hot chocolate and spend time with family isn’t such a bad thing, either.