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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Point/Counterpoint: Virtual snow days

Rhea Noumair

Rachael: Virtual snow days are a bad idea

According to The Washington Post and PBS, students’ test scores in math and reading plummeted across the country during the pandemic. According to PBS, student “math scores saw their largest decrease ever.” There is no doubt that online school during the pandemic was detrimental to students both academically and mentally. So why would MCPS go back to this failed model by implementing Code Purple, virtual snow days, rather than simply adding in-person school days in the spring?

We don’t get much snow in Montgomery County. But the week of Jan. 15 was an exciting week for students across the county, as we got to experience a significant snowfall for the first time in about two years. However, student’s excitement was paused on Jan. 18 when it was announced that there was a possibility for schools to be virtual Jan. 19 instead of having what everyone is used to: a snow day. MCPS is obligated to announce Code Purple a day in advance at 12:00 p.m. Luckily, MCPS did not mandate Code Purple for Jan. 19. But still, the future for snow days is bleak.

Code Purple runs on a two hour delay schedule, which means about four hours total of students staring at their computer screens. Not only is this useless for students’ learning, but it’s also extremely unhealthy for students, especially elementary schoolers. Eight year olds should not be obligated to be on their computer screen for hours when they could be playing outside in the snow, a ritual of childhood.

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According to ScienceDaily, “spending time outdoors has positive effects on our brains.” Social activities on snow days are far more productive for students than having to log onto Zoom for four hours. There’s nothing like having a good snowball fight in our neighborhoods, building a snowman with our friends or drinking a nice warm cup of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. Code Purple strips all of these joyful activities away from students.

And we can’t forget about our teachers. It’s a lot to expect of teachers to alter their lesson plans for online school. It’s especially stressful for teachers with children. Not only do teachers have to set up their classes and lessons, but they also have to assist their own children in online school.

Furthermore, Code Purple does not accommodate students who either don’t have access to such technology or simply have poor internet connection. Students with socioeconomic challenges are at a significant disadvantage under Code Purple.

On the MCPS official website, MCPS explained their decision of Code Purple by stating that “it is important that students experience as few learning disruptions as possible. For that reason, MCPS will consider a transition to virtual learning when schools are closed due to inclement weather.”

Code Purple does not provide any meaningful continuity for learning whatsoever and only disrupts students’ learning. Students have moved on from the pandemic, as it has become a distant memory. MCPS too needs to move on from the counterproductive strategy of online school.

Snow days have existed for generations and have never been shown to inhibit student learning. So why is MCPS suddenly abolishing snow days in favor of online schooling, instead of making up the lost days in the spring? Virtual school was a desperate measure for a desperate time (and studies have shown that it was no substitute for in-person school). MCPS needs to recognize that a snow day is no crisis and does not call for such desperate measures.

Josh: Counterpoint

Snow falls gracefully to the ground creating a thin white layer on the street. In most places across the northern United States, students attend school on a normal schedule and snow is just an added bonus. However, in the DMV, any small dusting of snow is sure to at least delay if not cancel school. Montgomery County and the surrounding counties in the DMV are simply unequipped and unprepared whenever there is snow. While snow days are certainly fun for students and sometimes a much needed brain break from the weekly academic grind, the implications for canceling multiple days of school can be very aggravating for students, teachers and families.

Maryland state law states that public schools must teach students for 180 days. This is why MCPS plans for 182 school days in their calendar, building in two extra days in case of emergency cancellations (snow, extreme weather, broken power lines, etc.). However, there have been many years (this year included) where more days are canceled than the allotted number built-in by MCPS forcing the county to take away professional days, add days to the end of the school year and/or hold school days instead of Spring break.

Each of these options are not beneficial as subtracting professional days takes away from teachers’ time to catch up on grading and attend meetings. Additional days at the end of the school year push school days past AP test dates, taking away valuable time teachers use to prepare their students for exams, while shortening Spring Break would be unfair to families with travel plans that cannot be changed and would take away the second largest break students get all school year.

It’s obvious that the only solution for these problems is for MCPS to enter Code Purple and hold school virtually.

During Code Purple, classes are run on a two-hour delay schedule meaning that they are thirty minutes long and begin at 9:45 a.m. Code Purple is the happy medium for promoting mental health and studying as it not only provides teachers with enough time to present lessons (30 minutes), but also gives students mental support by allowing them to sleep for an extra two hours, something valuable for high school students.

At a school where 77% of students took an AP exam last year according to US News and World Report and in a county that is paying around $4 million dollars this year to subsidize AP tests, engaging students, even through online classes if we must, in preparation for the AP test is extremely important to prepare them for the exam and not get behind schedule. With all of this money being placed towards AP testing, it is paramount that MCPS put their mouth where their money is and prepare students for the test. Snow days do not push back AP test dates. Additional days after AP exams will not help students and neither will adding days where it is unlikely students will attend.

While pandemic online learning was detrimental for the health and learning progression of most students including myself, an extra day or two during the school year is very different from an entire year. We do not need another snow day on a week that has already had two snow days. One or two day weeks do not promote learning or mental health and just take everyone out of a groove.

Snow days are fun, but at a certain point we’ve had our moment. We’ve enjoyed ourselves in weather we don’t often experience. The two emergency days give students a mental break while allowing kids to be kids and should still be incorporated into scheduling. However, two days is certainly enough time to play in the snow and considering that Code Purple still lets us sleep in, I think we would all be happy with Code Purple any day of the week.

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About the Contributors
Rachael Wolfson 
Rachael Wolfson , Print Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Wolfson is currently a senior and this is her third year on The Pitch. During her first two years, Rachael was a Print Opinion Editor and now she is a Print Editor-in-Chief. In addition to The Pitch, Rachael runs on the cross country and track team. She's also the Co-Founder and Co-President of The WJ Gilmore Girls Club. Her two older brothers (Thomas '20 and Alexander '22) also served as Print Editors-in-Chief when they were Wildcats/Madcows (take your pick). Rachael is looking forward to ending the Wolfson Dynasty (2017-2024) on a high note!! 
Joshua Singer
Joshua Singer, Print Editor-in-Chief
Joshua Singer is a junior and is ecstatic to be a Print Editor-in-Chief in his second full year on The Pitch. In his free time, Josh enjoys running, playing guitar and announcing sports.
Rhea Noumair
Rhea Noumair, Print Opinion Editor and Illustrator
Junior Rhea Noumair is in her third year of Pitch and is the Print Opinion Editor and Illustrator. She enjoys playing and watching soccer, painting and listening to music in her free time.
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