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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snow Days - School Days - Pay Days

There's no school today due to the return of winter in the form of a snowstorm and the prospect of a mix of rain and sleet to follow throughout the day. This is our first cancellation of school this year due to inclement weather. It's otherwise been an unusually moderate winter, with far below normal amounts of snow.

Now that I've cleared snow from my driveway and arrived at school, I'd like to clear up something else. Teachers are not paid for snow days. In fact, teachers work a number of school days according to their labor contract with their school district, no matter how many days school is closed for unexpected reasons. The state of New York requires a minimum of 180 days in a school year. There may very well be additional days for staff development activities beyond that 180. However, this means that teachers must comply with the stated number of days defined by their contract, regardless of any snow days. That is, if the contract requires teachers to work 181 days, the school district typically builds in more days to account for the possibility of cancellations due to inclement weather. Though these days are usually referred to as snow days there are many schools across New York that closed school for several days this September because of flooding.

For example, let's take the district with 181 days of work expected of the teachers. They construct a schedule for the year that may have 185 days of school. In that manner, they have the use of four days (185-181) in the event that school has to be cancelled without infringing on the minimum number of days in the contract or state mandate. If they do not use all of those four days then the remaining days are normally returned to the teachers and learners in the form of days off of school later in the year after any threat of a snowstorm has passed. Traditionally, this results in extended time off coupled with the Memorial Day weekend. If the school uses more "snow days" than they allocated in their calendar, then they have to either add extras days at the end of the year or shave days off of a previously scheduled vacation break - like April. That's exactly what several school districts will be doing this year due to flood related days off at the beginning of the year.

Unfortunately, absent this understanding, people outside of the school perceive that the teachers and learners are getting an extra holiday! This is not true. The length of the school year is the same despite the number of days school is cancelled.


  1. Some teachers work from home on a snow day.

  2. I fully understand that some teachers work at home on snow days, and that many work long into the night grading assignments and creating lesson plans on school days, and others extend themselves in the summer months on professional development activities - I am married to a teacher, my daughter is a teacher, and I am a former teacher.

    My point in this Blog post was to explain to people that snow days are not days off with pay for teachers. I wanted to correct what appears to be a commonly misperceived notion among non-educators that is inherently damaging to the image of teachers.