With a foot of snow expected to drub New York City on Wednesday and Thursday, preparations for the potentially major weather event are now swinging into high gear. But as local officials ready the brine trucks and don their authoritative windbreakers, one winter storm ritual is notably absent this year: the NYC Snow Day.

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio plowed over the powdery dreams of local students, announcing that snow days would now be a "thing of the past." Parents should expect their kids will have "fully remote learning" on Thursday, according to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. The rapid rise of virtual instruction, he added, means that "snow days are remote learning days."

The reaction from the city's youth was swift and unforgiving.

"I feel awful," sulked Max Dobkin, the 11-year-old son of local website cofounder Jake Dobkin. "Kids don't deserve to have snow days ripped off for crappy remote learning!"

Several students noted that they were already shouldering a lot of stress, thanks to the pandemic and the dizzying oscillations between virtual and in-person instruction — and simply deserved a day in the snow to reset.

"They want to squeeze every single minute into online learning, but I feel as though students need time to take a break and focus on their mental health because of the coronavirus," said Jazz Cobham, a sophomore at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School.

"It’s like we're in a boiling pot of water and eventually we're going to boil over," echoed 5th-grader Katie Wilkins. "A lot of this is really stressful — a great way to relieve stress is a snow day."

Julie Kravitz, another 5th grader, said the appeal of a snow day goes beyond just students. "Everyone likes snow days: the teachers, the kids, everyone," she said. "I don't think it's very fair to take away snow days from people because they're fun for everyone and they don't happen very often anyways."

Clearly better than school


Zach Everett-Lane, a senior at Hunter College High School, said that he and his fellow classmates had assessed the forecast, and would not be accepting the mayor's "No Snow Day" decree.

"The general consensus is that...we'll take matters into our own hands," he said. "Honestly, if we can squeeze just a bit of joy out of this month in the midst of college applications and everything else, that would be worth missing school."

Some parents and teachers told Gothamist they'd be following the lead of a New Jersey school district, which announced earlier this year that they'd cancel all forms of school in the event of major snow to allow "for on-site learners and virtual learners to just be kids by playing in the snow, baking cookies, reading books and watching a good movie.”

"It’s such a small thing to give to kids," noted Robin Lester Kenton, a Brooklyn Public Library employee, who said she planned build a snow man and watch A Christmas Story with her 1st and 3rd grade boys.

Of course, the decision to call a snow day has long been a fraught one for NYC's public school system, where nearly three-quarters of students come from economically disadvantaged families that may be unable to pay for childcare. The considerations of working parents are typically weighed against travel hazards for students and staff, some of whom commute long distances to school buildings.

One teacher told Gothamist that the ongoing struggles of remote learning would add another element of confusion to the complex snow day calculus. "If there were a snow day, is the remote schooling asynchronous? Is it synchronous?" the teacher, who asked not to be named, wondered. "Each school has a different way of approaching remote schooling because [the mayor] didn't give any guidance for what remote schooling should look like."

Even before the pandemic, big storms tended to dump backlash on NYC mayors. After achieving villain status for refusing to call a snow day during a blizzard early his first term, de Blasio has been quicker than most to shutter schools during inclement weather. During his first four years in office, he declared five snow days, Chalkbeat found, the same number as Mayor Mike Bloomberg did through 12 years in office.

On Tuesday, the mayor seemed perfectly happy to leave the cherished wintertime ritual behind.

"Even when kids are home because of the snow, they’ll still be learning," de Blasio said. "I’m kind of sad for the kids on the one hand. On the other hand we’ve got a learning that needs to be done and lot of catching up, so it’s the right thing to do."

(Disclosure: Dobkin and Wilkins are both the children of Gothamist cofounders; we remain objective on the subject of whether kids should be allowed to have fun in the snow).