OPINION | Why can’t we escape school on virtual snow days?

     Imagine waking up to snow falling softly outside your window, piling in droves all around you, running to check your phone only to discover that one class you were hoping to avoid due to a snow day is being held virtually. Snow days could be a thing of the past here at UCCS, thanks to Zoom and its evil cousin, Microsoft Teams.  

      Sometimes university students just need a break after having to deal with schoolwork, jobs and not to mention a pandemic that has gone on for two years.  

     With the initiative to keep schools open ever since mass closures back in March 2020, we are no strangers to virtual classes/meetings. However, while we are largely back in person, we still can’t escape the dreaded awkwardness of virtual classes, as some professors have decided to hold classes even when the school is closed due to inclement weather.  

     On Feb. 2, UCCS had its first spring semester campus closure due to inclement weather, and for many that was a chance to get caught up on overdue work, to relax or for some — virtual class. For those few, their professors decided to host a class virtually to avoid a skewed schedule for the weeks to come.  

     UCCS is not the only academic campus to implement a virtual class policy during snow days. School districts in El Paso County have decided to create space for virtual meetings so students don’t have to make up for missed days if the school is cancelled for multiple days at a time.      

     Nationally, more universities are using this new policy, especially where there are continued inclement weather conditions.  

     It is understandable that many professors here at UCCS who find it productive to stay on a set schedule would decide to host a virtual class. It allows students to connect with one another, while being separated during the sometimes-unhealthy weight of being at home during a snowstorm. Additionally, UCCS can utilize the technology that has been available and popularized during the pandemic.  

     However, some students could be put in an awkward situation when having to attend a virtual version of their class. Some rely on technology available in the library and computer labs across campus to do most of their schoolwork. Students without a personal computer are unable to access these during inclement weather to attend classes that are being held virtually. 

     While the university has provided laptops to students who need one for classwork, some still lack Wi-Fi connectivity at home. As education becomes more reliant on virtual means of connectivity, then it is imperative that we give each student equal access to these new methods of academic instruction.  

     Not to mention, snow days are simply a blessing to students and university staff who have fallen behind or need a break. When living in a state like Colorado, snow days are an unavoidable event and it’s simply safer to close academic operations. If students can’t make it to campus safely, then it is best to cancel classes all together without mandating virtual attendance.  

     Perhaps, rather than treating snow days as an interruption of day-to-day operations, we can advertise it as a mental health or catchup day for students and staff who could rely on these sometimes-rare closures. It would also be beneficial for the university administration to address this situation formally in a new policy rather than leaving it up to the few professors who decide to hold virtual class.  

     Hang in there, UCCS. Where there is snow, there is a way.