Huntington School Distrcit Superintendent James Polansky at his office last...

Huntington School Distrcit Superintendent James Polansky at his office last year. Credit: Reece T. Williams

Snow days may be over in New York City schools, but they are here to stay on Long Island.

The practice of turning snow days into remote days, one of the pandemic’s many legacies, gained renewed attention this week after city Schools Chancellor David Banks said virtual learning eliminated the need for snow days — no matter how beloved the tradition is.

On Long Island, many disagreed.

“Kids look forward to that. It's something they think about when there's snow out. They get excited,” said Adam Fine, superintendent of East Hampton schools. “So to do away with that and put remote learning in its place would not go well with this community and would not go over well with me.”

Most Island schools, including East Hampton, have built in at least one snow day for this school year calendar. A few districts that used the remote option in snowstorms during the pandemic are switching back to giving students their traditional snow days back.

Huntington schools, for example, went virtual on three stormy days in the winter of the 2020-21 school year. Its superintendent, James Polansky, said then that he would like to see remote schooling continued during bad weather in future years.

But Huntington this year will not pivot to remote learning. Polansky said his thinking changed after calling a traditional snow day last winter and feeling the excitement and the sense of “normal” that came along with it.

“We don’t see any reason to discontinue in that regard barring any extraordinary circumstances,” he wrote in an emailed statement Thursday.

Many educators also said the pandemic has shown that remote instruction is a poor substitute for in-person education and they prefer to avoid it when they can.

“Even though we thought the remote learning was successful, it's awful. It's absolutely awful,” said Jack Perna, superintendent of Montauk schools, which has two built-in snow days this year. “If you have to do it, then you do it. If you don't have to do it, I wouldn't.”

Others have a different view.

Regina Armstrong, superintendent of the 6,300-student district in Hempstead, said the effectiveness of online learning differs by student and she sees its role as lasting.

“It’s something that should never go away,” she said. “It's still a very vital option to be able to pivot to remote instruction, not just in inclement weather. It could be for other reasons,” such as heat not working in a school building.

Her district had no snow days last winter, but built in three for this year, though mainly because the calendar had more room with an earlier school start date, she said. If the district needed more snow days than it allotted, it would start virtual instruction.

Many others have a similar plan so they can meet the state requirement of providing a minimum of 180 instruction days without cutting into families’ vacations to make up lost time.

While he dreads putting students in front of screens again, Fine, in the East Hampton district, said remote learning can help solve the logistical challenge districts have faced for years.

“Some families had planned trips. They're not changing their trip to have their kid come in [for] one day of school during an April break,” Fine said. “That's where remote learning comes in play. That's where I think it's good to use your snow days. Then you get into remote learning.”

Perry Fuchs, head of the Plainedge teachers union, said different approaches to snow days could make it difficult for some teachers, who could have their own children home on a snow day when they still have to teach remotely.

For him, the length of the closure matters.

“If you're going to close school for one or two days, it's probably better for the kids to just have the snow day,” he said. “If we were to have a major catastrophe on Long Island like … Superstorm Sandy and the schools have to close for a period of time, it's nice knowing that we could have this option to potentially switch to online learning if the state still allows it.” 

Snow days may be over in New York City schools, but they are here to stay on Long Island.

The practice of turning snow days into remote days, one of the pandemic’s many legacies, gained renewed attention this week after city Schools Chancellor David Banks said virtual learning eliminated the need for snow days — no matter how beloved the tradition is.

On Long Island, many disagreed.

“Kids look forward to that. It's something they think about when there's snow out. They get excited,” said Adam Fine, superintendent of East Hampton schools. “So to do away with that and put remote learning in its place would not go well with this community and would not go over well with me.”

Most Island schools, including East Hampton, have built in at least one snow day for this school year calendar. A few districts that used the remote option in snowstorms during the pandemic are switching back to giving students their traditional snow days back.

Huntington schools, for example, went virtual on three stormy days in the winter of the 2020-21 school year. Its superintendent, James Polansky, said then that he would like to see remote schooling continued during bad weather in future years.

But Huntington this year will not pivot to remote learning. Polansky said his thinking changed after calling a traditional snow day last winter and feeling the excitement and the sense of “normal” that came along with it.

“We don’t see any reason to discontinue in that regard barring any extraordinary circumstances,” he wrote in an emailed statement Thursday.

Many educators also said the pandemic has shown that remote instruction is a poor substitute for in-person education and they prefer to avoid it when they can.

“Even though we thought the remote learning was successful, it's awful. It's absolutely awful,” said Jack Perna, superintendent of Montauk schools, which has two built-in snow days this year. “If you have to do it, then you do it. If you don't have to do it, I wouldn't.”

Others have a different view.

Regina Armstrong, superintendent of the 6,300-student district in Hempstead, said the effectiveness of online learning differs by student and she sees its role as lasting.

“It’s something that should never go away,” she said. “It's still a very vital option to be able to pivot to remote instruction, not just in inclement weather. It could be for other reasons,” such as heat not working in a school building.

Her district had no snow days last winter, but built in three for this year, though mainly because the calendar had more room with an earlier school start date, she said. If the district needed more snow days than it allotted, it would start virtual instruction.

Many others have a similar plan so they can meet the state requirement of providing a minimum of 180 instruction days without cutting into families’ vacations to make up lost time.

While he dreads putting students in front of screens again, Fine, in the East Hampton district, said remote learning can help solve the logistical challenge districts have faced for years.

“Some families had planned trips. They're not changing their trip to have their kid come in [for] one day of school during an April break,” Fine said. “That's where remote learning comes in play. That's where I think it's good to use your snow days. Then you get into remote learning.”

Perry Fuchs, head of the Plainedge teachers union, said different approaches to snow days could make it difficult for some teachers, who could have their own children home on a snow day when they still have to teach remotely.

For him, the length of the closure matters.

“If you're going to close school for one or two days, it's probably better for the kids to just have the snow day,” he said. “If we were to have a major catastrophe on Long Island like … Superstorm Sandy and the schools have to close for a period of time, it's nice knowing that we could have this option to potentially switch to online learning if the state still allows it.” 

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