If there was ever a time we could use a few snow days, it’s now.

In the Before Times, it wouldn’t have even been a question. Prior to the pandemic, when a huge snowstorm moved through Maine during the morning commute, students and teachers would be kept home, where the only option was a day off.

But now, through remote learning, most classes happen at home anyway. So when the first major snowstorm of the COVID era laid into Maine Thursday, school superintendents had a choice on how to handle it.

Jeff Porter, of School Administrative District 51 in Cumberland, was one of leaders who got it right.

In a letter to parents and staff sent on Wednesday, Porter canceled all classes for Thursday, not only because power outages could limit learning, but because “we could all use a day to shake off the stress of the pandemic for just one day and enjoy the first real snowfall and the beauty of a Maine winter.”

It’s always a thrill to have a snow day, when you wake to a fresh blanket of snow and the news that you have nothing else to do but enjoy it. In Maine, when the appearance of a foot of snow overnight can change the entire landscape, it’s pretty close to magical.

But snow days come with something extra this year — a sense of normalcy. For students who have been kept from face-to-face contact with their teachers and classmates, who have been unable to take part in the usual activities, and who have had to figure out new ways of learning on the fly, unsure of how long it is going to last, they are a sign that the virus can’t take everything.

To be fair, the schools that have opted to stick with remote learning on snowy days are keeping this in mind. Some told the Press Herald this week that students will be allowed to do the day’s assignments on their own schedule, with the expectation that they would take a good part of the day to enjoy some time off.

But it’s not the same. For months now, students and teachers have been consumed with bending their lives to the will of the virus. They’ve taken on a huge load, and there’s nothing wrong with an unexpected day off now and again.

Snow days give them permission to put all the stress and anxiety aside, if only for a little while. They are a simple pleasure at a difficult and complicated time.

As Porter wrote in his letter, the hard stuff won’t go anywhere in the meantime.

“So, for just a moment try to forget this pandemic and get off the screens and go outdoors and play in the snow, go sledding, drink hot chocolate, sit by the fire, watch an old movie, read a good book for fun, do whatever it takes to remind each other (and ourselves) why the simplicities of life are indeed the best parts,” he wrote. “We can return to the more serious side of life on Friday.”


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