EL PASO, Texas – On Sunday, kids in the Borderland woke up to a winter wonderland when a winter storm dropped inches of snow in the area. Inches!
By Monday morning, that snow was still on the ground. But instead of kids building snowmen, having snowball fights or simply staying bundled up in bed, most were sitting in front of their computers or tablets, learning virtually.
As much of the world has evolved with technology – save for a Zoom filter here or there – through virtual learning and online meetings, are snow days a thing of the past? The short answer is yes.
“I can even think back to when I was a kid and, ‘oh yay, no school, we get to go out and play in the snow,’ and certainly it’s fun for children – we don’t see that very frequently in this town,” said Fabens Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Veronica Vijil.
But, snow days are disruptive for school districts. Technology such as platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are incredibly important to keep continuity in lessons for students, teachers and professors, especially on days like Monday.
“Certainly, there’s a case to be built for emergencies such as these (inclement weather days),” Vijil explained about working with the Texas Education Agency to have remote learning days. “Then perhaps we have seen the last of snow days and the necessity to have to make up days after the school year has ended, so yay to that.”
Even in higher education, snow days can be a challenge. But having almost a years’ worth of online instruction under their belt helped prepared El Paso Community College for inclement weather.
“Due to the pandemic, we’re able to continue working remotely and have our online instruction because of the planning we had to do and the fact that now everybody is using tech,” said Dr. Jenny M. Girón, EPCC’s vice president of Information Technology. “We’ve been working for months remotely, so (Monday) was a regular workday for us and our instruction continued.
“To have snow days that we did in the past — where everything shuts down and we’re not able to continue instruction — I don’t think it’s going to happen as often as we did before,” Girón said.
And, however fleeting Zoom meetings and online learning may feel, especially as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, Zoom’s Kelsey Knight says Zoom is evolving and here to stay. Zoom has been around for 10 years, she said, and looking ahead to other products that people will find useful beyond the pandemic.
“Life is changing in a totally different way where we’re connecting virtually all the time now,” said Knight, Zoom’s Global Government PR Lead. “And, you know, we’re thrilled to have provided that platform, but there are some things that are never going to go back.”
She mentioned the platform’s usefulness in education (beyond online learning), government, business and even in legal proceedings, where attending in person would be stressful (such as divorce proceedings or child custody hearings), business and more.
“I do think (Zoom is) going to be around, you know, well past the pandemic, because just everything has changed,” Knight said. “Our life has changed so dramatically with the use of this platform now.”
Knight, who’s based in Washington, D.C., said her children still experience full snow days, even with online learning available, since power outages can mean no internet access.
So, maybe there’s a possibility for snow days in the future after all.