January 22, 2021
Thoughts from Dr. Pacatte
Is the Snow Day a casualty of the pandemic?
As a young girl growing up in Gurnee, I remember watching Channel 9 scroll the names of schools that would be closed that day due to snowfall. The white flakes falling in the picture window competed for my attention with the scroll across the bottom of the screen. I remember jumping up and down and cheering once I saw Woodland Schools, Lake County. My friends and I quickly called one another to plan the time we would meet in our snow gear to begin the building of a snow fort or snowman. As a teenager, I remember the blizzard of ’79 where that same picture window was darkened by the tallest pile of snow I’d ever seen blown up against the front of our home. At that age, once Warren Township High School scrolled by, I happily turned around and went back to bed.
As a first year superintendent, three years ago, I experienced one of my most stressful periods of time…the “Polar Vortex”. I learned how all Lake County Superintendents spend hours communicating as to snow fall or temperatures in their areas, the viability of buses running, and streets being passable before determining if it would be okay to have staff and students come to the schools. The happy memories of Snow Days quickly faded and were replaced with stress and worry as I called off school for three days, replacing two with eLearning Days.
As you know, I postponed the return to school by an additional week. That was not an easy decision and it was done knowing that it would be received with mixed emotions throughout our school community (students, teachers, and parents). Most people are emotionally at the end of their tolerance for Remote Learning even if that remains their preference due to the pandemic. There hasn’t been a day where I haven’t wished for this to be over. We have learned that our students are very capable of logging onto their devices for a day of school and the eLearning Pilot, in which we participated, served us well. We were able to respond to the pandemic swiftly. We have gotten better and learned more tools and strategies throughout this 10-month period. In fact, there will be pieces of this that we carry with us, if and when we return to a normal school day, that will allow us to address individual situations in a way that will better keep our students connected to learning.
Yet, I miss the simplicity of a Snow Day. Snow Days are inconvenient interruptions to teaching and learning, getting to work, and providing supervision for children unexpectedly staying at home. The memories of Snow Days make me smile, and I so hope all of our children will still be able to create their own memories around Snow Days when this is done.