Are Snow Days History?


The current pandemic combined with the recent winter storm has students wondering if school snow days are a thing of the past. Memphis experienced nine straight days with temperatures under 32 degrees, tying record streaks set in the 1940s and 1899, according to the National Weather Service. The cold temperatures brought icy road conditions to Memphis streets on Thursday, February 11th, causing Hutchison and other local schools to close.  


Hutchison students were already scheduled to be out of school for two days on Friday, February 12th for a teacher in-service day and to observe President’s Day on Monday, February 15th.


Two additional winter storms moved into Memphis and by Thursday, February 18th, the Memphis International Airport reported 5.7 inches of snow. Instead of closing school, Hutchison moved to online learning with virtual classes for the week. 


Several students wrote letters to Hutchison’s President and Head of School, Dr. Kristen Ring asking her to dismiss classes for 2 days, so students could enjoy the rare snow event.  One of those students was Junior Class President, Lily Rodenhiser. 


Dr. Ring said she was impressed with the student-led effort, “I thought it was great. We teach girls to develop their voice; it is always exciting to see them use it. We can’t always say yes, which can be disappointing.” Instead of two days off, students were given a half-day off on Friday, February 19. 


The current COVID-19 pandemic caused Hutchison to invest several thousand dollars into cameras and virtual classroom equipment, and like many schools across the country, that has students worrying that snow days will now be eliminated. 


Dr. Ring says snow days will not be completely eliminated. “When we build the calendar now, we do not build in multiple snow days as was once done. It will likely depend on the particular situation in that given year. If we have not had interruption previously, we would likely enjoy a snow day or two. If we are in an unusual year where we have faced multiple challenges, we will continue to prioritize academic time as best we can.”


Adrienne Forgette, Head of Hutchison Upper School says, “We would still like to allow the first ‘snow’ day to be a no-school day, so I wouldn’t say we are eliminating them.”  


Neither administrator supports the idea of differentiating snow days from virtual days with a policy. “There isn’t an easy answer, as it will likely be situation specific. For example, if we have time to plan ahead and everyone has materials at home, virtual learning is more productive. If we are surprised, as we were with the ice on Thursday, it is difficult to pivot so quickly,” Dr. Ring said when asked if Hutchison, Memphis University School, or St. Mary’s School had discussed developing an actual policy.  


Overall, Forgette says that not everyone was in favor of taking two days off. “So many of our teachers and some students have also expressed how our shortened class periods have impacted their classes, especially those following an AP curriculum. We want girls to have the best preparation possible while still remaining realistic about the amount of screen time and virtual classes they can handle in the day, hence the altered schedule this year,” said Forgette.