DOE expels snow days from school year calendar, adds Juneteenth holiday

Children make snow angels inside Potomac Playground in Bed-Stuy on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

The snow day is no more in New York City public schools.

Next year, students will have to report to class remotely if the school buildings are closed due to inclement weather, according to the Department of Education’s 2021-22 school calendar released Tuesday. 

Last winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio replaced all snow days with fully remote learning days to the disappointment of many public school students and their families. In response, some public school parents rebelled by turning the first snowstorm to hit the five boroughs last December into an unofficial snow day, giving their children the OK to skip class and play in the record-setting 12.5 inches of powder that blanketed the city. 

“It’s usually only one or two days a year and it’s pretty magical to get outside and play on those days before the snow turns into dog poop and street slush,” said Sarah Yorra, a Brooklyn public school teacher and parent who said her daughter “felt robbed” last year after the mayor killed snow days. “It’s a good break to the routine and a lot of our immigrant students have never seen snow before they moved here and most of them like to get out and in play in it. So that’s a bit of bummer to lose out on.” 

The updated calendar also replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and declares Juneteenth, the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States,  a holiday for students. Mayor de Blasio pledged to make Juneteenth an official New York City holiday last June shortly after Governor Cuomo declared Juneteenth a state holiday amid protests calling for police reform after the death of George Floyd. 

A handful of city and state lawmakers including Staten Island Councilmembers Joe Borelli and Steve Matteo as well as Republican Representative Nicole Malliotakis objected to the DOE’s decision to switch out Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The trio argue the move erases Italian-American history.

“Surely the bean counter tasked with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” file would have been better used finding the laptop purchases the agency failed to materialize or repairing a squeaky chair,” said Borelli in a statement. “There is nothing wrong with celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but doing so at the expense of a day that celebrates Italian American culture and history is downright insulting. Doing it under the radar only adds to the cowardice now regularly on display by the woke left. “

Originally, the DOE referred to the holiday as solely Indigenous Peoples’ Day but Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter later tweeted the date would be dubbed Italian Heritage and Indigenous Peoples Day. It is unclear if the change came as a result of criticism from elected officials. 

In addition, all public school students will have a remote learning day on November 2, 2021, Election Day. But the city’s decision to solely provide online instruction on Election Day can change depending on state guidance, officials added.  

“Over the years, the DOE introduced additional holiday observances as part of the school calendar, and has contractual obligations which limit the number of possible school days,” said a DOE spokesperson in an email. “The pandemic has also created the ability to switch seamlessly to remote learning, and DOE central and schools have distributed hundreds of thousands of devices to ensure that learning can continue remotely during school closures.”

Although DOE officials touted the department’s effort to provide public school students with the technology they need, some teachers worry that replacing snow days or inclement weather days with remote learning days will ultimately hurt those students without reliable access to the internet or internet-accessible device such as a computer or an iPad. They are particularly concerned about students currently living in the homeless shelter system.


This article was updated with comment from Councilmember Borelli. 

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