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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Glorious snow days can't succumb to COVID-19

Credit: Getty Images / Marcia Straub

Ever since the coronavirus struck hard enough to force closures we’ve heard that some of the changes it spurred may become permanent.

Cities are out, as those who are able to flee the boroughs do so, their Pelotons and yoga mats strapped to the hoods of their Volvo SUVs like the axes and anvils pioneers carried by covered wagon.

Shaving is out, too, of course, and wearing pants to work, and going to work, and celebrating life events together. So, thanks to masks, is thoroughly assessing the attractiveness of other people in the grocery store, which is like 37% of the point of going to a grocery store.

But I am also hearing mumblings from some Grinchy educators and parents about the lessons of COVID-19 also including the end of school snow days. In the past six months, at least four district superintendents have suggested having students set up for distance learning might melt snow days for good, and against that I will battle like Cindy Lou Who.

My best school days were the ones that weren’t, wondrous winter mornings when the snow first fell, then stuck. The radio would finally say, as we knelt in prayer before it, "Classes are canceled due to inclement weather," and the whooping and hot chocolate and extreme bundling up would commence.

And the best school nights of my kidhood were the ones spent peering out a frost-rimed window, hunting the first flake.

"It can’t snow if it’s not cold out," my dad would say, watching me check the sky. "I’d go ahead and do my geometry proofs."

I could not, and that was one reason I hoped for a cancellation. My particular brand of never doing homework or studying was self-deception: I always believed that given just a single day’s reprieve I could change the vector of my life and become a popular, A-plus student, instead of being the weird, disheveled kid lost in whatever novel I’d brought from home. Then my report card comments would morph from "I have literally never heard of this kid" to "Lane is a tree of life for all who hold fast to him, and his ways are ways of wisdom."

I grew up in South Carolina, where the snow-day watch was "Twilight Zone" odd. You knew it hardly ever snowed, but that society would be immobilized for days if anything accumulated, with cars careening off the roads and sleighs scraping asphalt under three-quarters of an inch of slush. And then, as a parent, I enjoyed these days even more, frolicking with the Beloved Sapling, watching my wife bake the treats that signal love clearly as a kiss, reveling in the camaraderie of helping neighbors dig out and enjoy their own reprieve from routine.

Now most kids and most schools are set up for distance learning. Your district could demand school from home when inclement weather pops up.

But let’s not.

There is not much serendipity in the winter life of a child, not many lotteries to which they hold a ticket. School is, for many kids, 12 years of hard labor, forced by law and adults to study things that bore them.

What would be gained by taking away the chance that these surprise days of deliverance will pop up, and the joy kids get just from dreaming about that chance? I’ve heard educators explain that ending snow days would stop our kids "falling behind," and I wonder who we need to keep up with so badly that we’d trade these paths to joy.

COVID-19 has stolen an awful lot from us. We’ve lost loved ones and joy and freedom and peace of mind.

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.

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