What defines ‘Snow Days’, and are they changing?


Hannah McClintock, Staff Reporter

During extreme weather conditions, the Superintendent of his/her respective school district can call off school for students and staff. “Snow Days” are extra days off for students and teachers, and mean no online school work. COVID-19, however,  had changed schooling and work, since it made much of the world go online. Many school districts went entirely online for one to two years. Since COVID had changed how students work online, rumors started to spread about going online during snow days.

What this means for the student body is that instead of a “snow day”, students would be receiving an ‘online work day’, where students would still be required to do work. This rumor started to spread after hearing that other school districts in America, like one in Rochester, New York, used this policy. Thankfully, Brendan O’Riordan, the Superintendent of Rochester, New York school district, said; “We do not do online snow days in the Rochester City School District.” However, the threat had lingered that Twin Falls might move online.

Twin Falls Idaho’s Superintendent, Dr. Brady Dickinson, has no intentions of moving us online; “So far we have not gone in this direction for a number of reasons…the decision to close school for a snow day is made early the morning of the day in question. It doesn’t allow much time for preparation…most of the time teachers cannot provide online lessons at the last minute…” 

Furthermore, no other school districts in Idaho plan to move online. “We do not [have online snow days],  and logistically we would have to be heavily invested in Google Classroom and having all of our curricula online and digitized for a smooth transition to teaching online,” assured Dr. Dickinson.

“In our rural area, we also struggle with bandwidth connectivity and availability to make it possible,” said Joe Rodriguez, the principal of Clearwater Valley Elementary and Elk City School in Kooskia, ID. Confirmed by Paul Karafiol, Principal of Lakeview High School, who simply said, “No, we have no current plans [to start online snow days].”

Snow days in the Twin Falls School District are usually decided between 5:30-6:00 AM. “The decision is primarily related to whether or not roads and sidewalks are passable,” explained Dr. Dickinson.

This applies to most districts in the state of Idaho. However, to whom it applies is now in question. On Monday, January 30th, 2023, Dr. Dickinson sent out a message to parents of Twin Falls School District students informing them that students had the day off, and teachers did not.

Interestingly, teachers were told in a separate email by Dr. Dickinson; “Canceling for low temperatures is really a new situation and as such we are adapting to make the most of the time available to staff members. As a result, we took this opportunity to provide planning and preparation time. The majority of this time is uninterrupted and you, as professionals, can utilize the time to do the work of your choosing.”

Teachers were told to come in since the roads were considered ‘passable’. Para-teachers, or teachers who technically do not have licences but help with the Special Education, were told in the same email that: “we know you may have challenges with child care for your school-aged students, paras will be in the buildings tomorrow to help with supervision.”.

Various teachers had appreciated the time with no students in the classroom, such as Callae Marcellus, a counselor at CRHS, who said, “Though it may be unpopular, I was appreciative of the day.  I always need time to get caught up and do things that improve my quality of work but aren’t pressing when faced with student needs…I believe this decision was in line with both: keeping people safe while maximizing the product we as professionals deliver to our students.”

Brent Irish, a language arts teacher at CRHS, was unopposed to the snow day, saying; “Not a big deal, just seemed unnecessary to close school because of low temperatures.  I waited for the bus for 30 minutes in subzero weather many times as a kid.”

Angela Van Hofwegen, a 3rd grade teacher at Rock Creek Elementary school said, “I do think that teachers should be given the choice as to whether or not they should report to school on school closure days. There are a lot of people in different situations; some have small children, some live a long distance away from the school and others have completed their duties and don’t need the extra time in their classrooms.”

Marty Espinoza, a Spanish teacher at CRHS, said “It was ridiculous…they should’ve called it a snow day.”

Dr. Dickinson did mention that “This was also done last year in COVID when we had to close school due to not having enough subs.”, which was a once-in-a-while closure that hasn’t happened since.

The ‘Online Snow Day’ rumor has been dispelled, but a ‘Working Snow Day’ is a possibility for teachers in the Twin Falls School District. Would Teachers even consider ‘snow days’ in the same vein as students, who get the day off? As of 2023, the possibility of ‘Working Snow Days’ becoming the norm for teachers is unknown.