False hope

County keeps schools open after a message giving students hope for snow days


In a now controversial social media post on the snowy afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 31, Henrico County Public Schools addressed the opening and closing of schools regarding weather delays. The county got a total of four inches of snow starting around 1 a.m. Sunday, lasting until about 2 p.m. The temperatures from Sunday to Monday hovered around 32 degrees and stayed there for most of the following day.

   Because of the covered roads Sunday, there were many accidents, and driving conditions were considered dangerous, as evidenced by the Henrico County fire truck that overturned on Woodman Road. With the largest snow since 2018, many people were questioning the possibility of a snow day on Monday, Feb. 1.

   In the 8th issue of The Binder, the county newsletter, published in the beginning of the previous December, the county addressed the possibility of snow days in the future. Under the section, “Are snow days still a thing?,” they gave a clear answer of “yes,” and proceeded to explain why students can still get days off because of snow, even in the virtual learning environment. Their reasons included:

   “Many of our employees still drive to their school in order to work from their classrooms and offices, where they can access the necessary instructional tools, equipment and internet. Heavy snow and ice may still cause power and/or internet outages at schools and homes, making virtual learning temporarily impossible.”

   At the time this issue was published, the possibility of in-person learning had not yet been delayed, and would be one of the main factors concerning snow days.

   They proceeded to end the list of reasonings with a hopeful outlook for future delays and closings.

   “In a year when seemingly everything about school has been reimagined, reconfigured and rewritten, we still believe the joy of a ‘snow day’ on a fresh winter morning should be something that endures.”

   The date for return to in-person learning was later pushed back without an update addressing a change in these previous statements about weather delays. In fact, the county re-posted the verbiage from this statement on weather days, including the belief in a ‘snow day,’ during that Sunday morning snowfall. The hope for a day off of virtual learning, especially at the end of a grueling second quarter, was very present for many students and staff, until the county posted a follow-up statement on Sunday afternoon communicating the plans for the following school day.

   “The virtual school day will take place as usual. Schools will follow their normal virtual learning schedule.[…] Henrico County Public Schools buildings and offices will be closed due to snowy and icy conditions impacting roadways and school grounds. Again, the virtual school day will take place.”

  This decision almost completely contradicted the previous statement essentially saying, if the buildings and offices were closed, all schooling would be called off. Even with the date for return being delayed, there was never an update to their previous statements which gave the impression that nothing had changed. 

   The post even added a pretense of hope again regarding possible snow days:

   “P.S.: If this message wasn’t entirely what was hoped for, we aren’t ruling out ‘snow days’ in the future!”

   The Instagram post communicating plans for school to take place in a normal schedule got over 900 comments, from people being concerned about students without access to the internet who can’t leave their homes, to opinions on the contradicting statement made earlier in the school year and that day.

   Junior Hailey Glick felt many contributing factors weren’t taken into account when this decision was made.

   “One [factor] was how they couldn’t even distribute food and meals to kids who need it (because some kids don’t have the luxury some of us do to have food on our plates every meal), meaning kids had to do school without the proper needs to function and focus because they were hungry,” Glick said.

   She thought many student’s arguments weren’t just “petty” or “rude,” but were well-thought-out reasons that needed to be heard.

   In addition to students, staff and parents also had opinions about the decision. For example, history teacher, Andrew Heare was disappointed by the outcomes of Monday.

   “I believed [that we would have Monday off] due to previous communication from the county earlier in the day in which they stated “Snow Days” were still a possibility,” Heare said.

   He also felt having a snow day would have been beneficial for students and teachers as a break from the workload and could have been used as a “mental health day.”

   After the fallout from HCPS’s Instagram comment section, the district posted another follow-up statement Monday afternoon to address people’s resentment. 

   “It’s never been our intent to make an unprecedented year more challenging than it already is.[…] Many of our students need and count on the important daily connections they have with our schools, even in the virtual environment, and the responsibility we feel as a school system to ensure we are doing all we can to support our students. For some, that support would be welcome in the form of a ‘snow day.’ For others, we know it comes in the form of quiet but crucial interactions with the trusted adults and support system that our schools provide.”

   This statement was, again, concluded on a hopeful note that snow days are still a possibility in the 2021 school year.

   The reasoning behind their decision wasn’t fully accepted by most students. Glick didn’t understand why social interaction was the reason to still hold a virtual school day.

   “Online school in itself, honestly, isn’t even that interactive in the social aspect,” Glick said. “If you think about it, let’s say, theoretically, we’re in in-person school and it snows six inches and the county says they will keep school open so we can have ‘social interaction.’ That doesn’t exactly make sense because 80 percent of the time (give or take) we’re sitting in class learning and just doing a bunch of work.”

   Like many other students, junior Farhan Nahin felt the district’s apology posts were a bit of a false promise.

   “The post on Monday was literally just a tease. They say they’re still considering snow days and there is still hope, when everyone knows we won’t get snow like this for a long time. And to post saying we should still be expecting snow days, and then saying we still have school was the equivalent of showing a cat an open bag of food, and then closing and putting the bag back in the pantry,” Nahin said.

   The county gave many people false hope for a day off, followed by an unreliable statement with regard to future ‘snow days.’ Even with that said, no one knows if or when it will snow again this year making the possibility for snow days nothing but a big maybe. All we know for sure is that the call from Andy Jenks was a bit of a let down this year.