Make Up Snow Days? More Like Make Up No Days!

by Tom McArdle
Class of 2015

This winter Braintree High School students were gifted with an unprecedented amount of snow days, reflecting the area’s record-breaking season of snowfall. This was not an ideal vacation for school staff and town administrators – losing so many school days pushed the end of the school year right up to the end of June. Desperate to avoid keeping teachers and students in school on dates when they’d usually be enjoying their well-deserved time off, the school system appealed to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that the town should be exempt from holding the required 180 days of school due to this year’s unusually high snow piles. Unfortunately, this request was denied, leaving our town’s school administration scrambling to make up for even a few lost snow days.

Ultimately, our school system created different projects for students of all ages to complete as a condition of making up one snow day. These projects, which vary based on grade as well as leveling for secondary school students, all focus on Braintree’s 375th birthday this year and the history behind our town. According to the official explanation of the project, “Students will explore Braintree’s unique role in history, utilize historic resources and primary sources, and interview/hear from notable Braintree citizens,” introducing the concept that these projects will help students learn about our town and its history, further their own knowledge of the town and perhaps spark a larger interest in history as a whole.

While there is nothing wrong with trying to incorporate Braintree’s history into the school system’s curriculums – everyone from Braintree should know this town was the birthplace of two presidents, or that it was the site of the murders that led to the Sacco and Vanzetti trial – presenting this project as a condition of making up a lost day of school is a far-fetched concept. Students are not losing class time because of those nine snow days; despite the horrific sound of nine whole days lost to snow, any student would argue by the end of the year, all necessary material is made up for and covered by each class.

The notion of this project helping the town make up one snow day on the condition of its completion is a poorly conceived one.  Students do not feel inclined to put effort into the project and actually further their own knowledge about Braintree from it; they only see a means of avoiding sitting in sticky, humid classrooms one more day come mid-June.

We had record-breaking snowfall in Massachusetts this year, especially in Braintree, one of the hardest hit areas in the state. But not all nine days were missed during Governor Baker’s declarations of a state of emergency. Realistically, the school could have remained open for even half a day on the days that were not state of emergency days, despite the terrible weather, and thus would have counted for a full school day. Any student that could make it to school, in spite of the weather, could have gone, and students that could not make it would not be punished due to the rule that allows parents to keep children home from school at their own discretion. In light of the extreme weather Braintree experienced this year, it should have been acknowledged by the state that Braintree and other towns would not be able to reasonably fit in a full 180 day school calendar, and at least a few of the lost school days allowed to slide. Instead, students are presented with additional school work because of the town’s own decisions to close schools this winter, a decision that is out of the hand of any student.

Tom McArdle is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition