The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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Fun-filled snow days and their dreary consequences

Teachers adapt excessive midterm week workload due to snow days
Fairfax County Public Schools
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) announced 11 designated snow days for the school year, with no plans to hold asynchronous learning sessions for students. “In my DNA class, we were doing a lab,” junior Aayusha Sapkota said. “Due to the snow day, we couldn’t do the lab exactly as planned.”

Snow days yield a blend of joy and chaos as schools announce unexpected closures; parents face work disruptions, students revel in the unplanned break, and administrators grapple with measures amidst the snowfall. 

This year, Jefferson students got snow days on Jan. 16 and 19. The initial excitement of a sudden snow day leads to a less enchanting reality, as students tend to face greater workloads and a pileup of exams as a result of the unexpected breaks. 

Yet, students aren’t the only ones struggling with the aftermath of snow days. Teachers face difficulties adjusting to a new schedule after planning their tests ahead of time. 

“Snowdays directly impacted a day in which Chemistry 1 and Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry classes where most, if not all, teachers were going to have a test,” chemistry teacher Emily Owens said. “That delayed our unit tests.” 

These, these snow days fell near the beginning of midterm week, which affected both students and teachers. 

“We were also encouraged by [Jefferson] administration to consider full-year classes canceling midterms. And so we did,” Owens said. “In Chemistry 1 and AP Chemistry, we canceled our midterm as a result of that and then got to move our unit tests to fill that time instead.”

Most students invest time and effort into studying for these exams and preparing for future exams. 

“My Spanish teacher decided to give us a test the Tuesday before finals week, but due to the snow day, we had to take the test during finals week,” junior Aayusha Sapkota said.

Students also miss out on important material, while teachers face drastic schedule changes to their curricula. 

“When you have repeated snow days, it’s problematic because the material definitely doesn’t get covered,” statistics teacher Catherine Scott said. “You can’t just make up a whole week.” 

The prospect of asynchronous learning days then comes into play. Students can learn from their teachers at the comfort of their homes on days where traditionally, they would be encouraged to take a break, and teachers can catch their students up on material they missed. 

“I enjoyed the snow day, as it was very necessary,” Sapkota said. “It was a nice break from school, but I do feel like a lot of content, especially in my STEM classes that had a midterm or final, wasn’t taught. The snow day was the day where we were going to do a review, which resulted in a lot of [students] not being prepared for the exams, and the teachers changing the exam dates, due to not all the content being taught.” 

Asynchronous learning is a unique concept, but might not be very effective in practice.

“I don’t think asynchronous learning days are necessary,” Scott said. “Students have access to all the learning materials online so it’s not really necessary for them.”

Additionally, implementing asynchronous learning disregards the lives of students and teachers at home, which is burdensome.

“I think we have to recognize that snow days for some people mean that they have to take care of younger siblings, and so that doesn’t mean that they would be available to do schoolwork,” Owens said. “And that’s actually also true for teachers. If they have kids, daycares may be canceled or [teachers] may have to watch them during school days.”

Therefore, the more popular compromise among faculty has not been to add more content on these snow day breaks, but rather work around their existing schedules to ensure student success. 

“If we have a pileup of snow days, we have to think about restructuring the pacing of our courses,” Owens said. “I think that means ultimately either choosing to cut contact that might be extraneous [and] evaluating what content is absolutely necessary.” 

Teachers take unique approaches to respond to the disorder as a result of these snowdays. In statistics, the teachers decided to directly condense the content of their lesson into something shorter for students to engage in.

“You have to compact the curriculum somewhere else during the semester,” Scott said, “You have to be really careful to combine lessons that are a little bit easier. Lessons that students don’t need have a lot of practice time in between.” 

In contrast, chemistry teachers, including honors and AP, agreed on a course of action – an adjusted plan that considers students’ future success takes into account the future success of students within their respective courses. These adjustments yield a great number of questions for teachers to consider.

In contrast, chemistry teachers, including honors and AP, agreed on a course of action—an adjusted plan that considers students’ future success within their respective courses. These adjustments yield a great number of questions for teachers to consider.

“For an AP class, ‘What are the bare bones to get them ready for an AP test in time?’ versus in a core class, ‘What are the state standards?’” Owens said,  “Electives have free rein of adjustment, but I don’t think it means condensing all the same material into less time.” 

Regardless of what teachers choose to do to deal with the consequences of snow day breaks, they agree that these unplanned days off require careful planning and thinking of the most necessary content for students to grasp from their courses. 

“I think [snow days] should mean an evaluation of cutting things that are extra to still give thoughtful time to things that are a priority,” Owens said. 

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