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Are snow days a thing of the past? With Baltimore-area schools teaching virtually, they’re likely to look different.

Did they cancel school yet?

Joe Kane remembers those magical days from his childhood as if they happened yesterday.

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Whenever inclement weather was in forecast, Kane, now 35, would wake up and race to his grandmother’s room in Northeast Baltimore and ask that simple question. Her answer had profound implications.

If there was a snow day, it meant playing “Mario Kart” for hours. It meant earning up to $100 cash shoveling snow. And he could count like clockwork on a friendly, albeit competitive, snowball fight in the Ednor Gardens Lakeside neighborhood.

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“Snow days are something that’s in our fabric,” said Kane, who serves as chair of the Parent Community Advisory Board in Baltimore.

Kane has passed down some of the same traditions to his four children, all of them Baltimore City Public Schools students. But, with a storm forecast to bring heavy, wet snow to the Baltimore region Wednesday, there may be no reason for him and other parents to tell their children to wear their pajamas backward or to turn them inside-out. Ditto for placing a spoon under the pillow or performing the fabled snow dance.

Thanks to virtual learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, snow days as we know them might be a thing of the past — at least this year.

The area’s public schools are holding classes entirely or mostly online, and some of the city’s neighbors already have said not to expect snow days this year. Harford and Howard counties’ public schools systems said they’d pivot to 100% online learning when the meteorologists predict dangerous conditions for the remainder of the school year. Carroll County also has said students and faculty are expected to log on as usual when inclement weather arises for the foreseeable future.

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Christi Fondnazio, a heavy equipment operator with Baltimore City's Department of Transportation, at the North Avenue Salt Dome, where a front-end loader is ready to deliver salt to snowplows in preparation for Wednesday's snowstorm. The simple advice for the public from Steve Sharkey, Baltimore City's director of the department of transportation, is "Be prepared."
Christi Fondnazio, a heavy equipment operator with Baltimore City's Department of Transportation, at the North Avenue Salt Dome, where a front-end loader is ready to deliver salt to snowplows in preparation for Wednesday's snowstorm. The simple advice for the public from Steve Sharkey, Baltimore City's director of the department of transportation, is "Be prepared." (Amy Davis)

Jacob Shindel of Ellicott City hopes that’s not permanent protocol. Now an 18-year-old student at Towson University, Shindel graduated from Mount Hebron High School last year. He remembers how he and his neighbor would get up early on snow days to shovel before warming up with a cup of hot cocoa. Then, they’d snatch their sleds and take to nearest hillside.

The challenges of online learning and general pandemic-induced isolation make a midweek break more special than ever, Shindel said.

“I just think that in these times more than usual, kids and everyone really, need to have a mental break,” he said.

Spokespersons for the public school systems in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties told The Baltimore Sun they’re not quite ready to dismiss the possibility of snow days entirely, but warned that students and teachers may have to adjust their expectations. Regardless of the online infrastructures now in place, both said circumstances could crop up that call for school closures, like a blizzard that wipes out power for a region.

“I think it’s fair to say that the types of events that automatically prompted delays or closures before are not the types of events that will prompt them now,” said Bob Mosier, spokesperson for Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

Students and teachers are expected to log on for learning tomorrow, barring an extraordinary weather event, though officials will evaluate storms on a case-by-case basis, Mosier said. The school system plans to keep all of its students equipped with Google Chromebooks even after the threat of the coronavirus abates and in-person instruction begins, so schools could pivot to online learning in the case of building closures.

“I just think that in these times more than usual, kids and everyone really, need to have a mental break.”


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A spokesperson for Baltimore City schools did not respond to requests for comment, though officials have said all in-person classes are canceled Wednesday and online learning will proceed as normal.

Charles Herndon, Baltimore County Public Schools spokesperson, said his school system — victim of a recent ransomware attack — isn’t quite ready to speak about life after the coronavirus.

“I think, quite frankly, it’s a little early to write the obituary for snow days,” said Herndon, acknowledging that teaching technology provides the flexibility to mitigate the transportation risks posed by inclement weather.

He said Baltimore County schools are waiting for more information about the winter weather to make an announcement about school functions Wednesday.

Peter Kang, a 48-year-old Abingdon resident who grew up in Towson, remembered eagerly awaiting Baltimore County officials’ deadline decisions on school closures when he was a student.

He recalled waking up early on days when snow was predicted to watch the school tracker flashing across the screen on the local TV news station. Anne Arundel County. Baltimore. Howard County. ... Baltimore County always seemed to come last, he said.

“If you didn’t get school closures or it was just a delay, you’re kind of bummed out,” Kang said. “And obviously if school was closed for the day you were completely stoked.”

For Kang, the latter meant crawling back into bed for a few hours. Then, a bowl of cereal or a cup of soup. A check of snow conditions would determine Kang’s next venture. If there was a blanket of white fluff, all the kids in the neighborhood knew what to do.

“It was literally like a movie: On a snow day, everyone would bum-rush the golf course,” Kang said.

He can’t remember whether it was hole No. 7 or 8 on the nearest course, but he’ll never forget what they’d dubbed “suicide hill.” It was steep, with a creek at the bottom. Those brave enough to drop in risked being soaked if they didn’t bail out in time.

Kang said he used to be able to get his son outside in the snow. Now, Kang said his 17-year-old junior at Edgewood High School is more interested with his mobile devices. It’s part of a predictable generational shift, Kang said, one that means snow days don’t hold the same allure of yesteryear.

That doesn’t change his feelings about school without snow days.

“It’s sad to imagine,” Kang said.

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