What Warrants A Snow Day At Andover?

While a significant number of schools in the surrounding area had snow days last week, Andover students could be seen braving the cold and attending class amid the wintry conditions. Considering this and Andover’s decisions regarding snow days in recent years, it has become apparent that the school has upheld a practice of refraining from calling snow days.

In an interview with The Phillipian, Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, said, “I think that the school recognizes itself as a boarding, residential school. So, for that reason, our default is to always have class unless there are extraordinary circumstances. In the last ten years, I think we’ve cancelled classes fewer than five times.”

One of these extreme circumstances was on January 12, 2011, when former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency in the wake of Winter Storm Juno. Andover responded by cancelling classes for the day.

“A few years ago we ended up cancelling class… Patrick [asked] for all drivers to be off the roads throughout the state of Massachusetts. I think that is what we’re talking about in terms of qualifying as an extraordinary circumstance,” said Elliott.

Cindy Chen ’18 agrees with the decision to make snow days a rare occurrence, citing possible scheduling inconveniences.

“It would be hard with policy and the time [during] which we are at school to change the schedule because we would have to add in a day somewhere else, and we would mess up every teacher’s syllabus. I feel like, from a pedagogical view, I understand the position not to have snow days,” said Chen.

According to Mason Tuller ’21, the conditions last Thursday were jarring for students who experienced the snow for the first time.

“Being from California and living in San Francisco, I don’t see snow every day. Maybe I’ll occasionally go skiing, but I don’t live in snow… It was really cold and windy and snowy, and that was kind of a new experience day-to-day for me,” said Tuller.

Even for some students more accustomed to New England’s weather, Thursday’s conditions provided difficulties.

Henrique Chamon ’21, a day student from Lexington, Mass., said, “I feel that it makes life particularly difficult for day students… They are going to have to leave campus earlier on certain days, wake up earlier, leave earlier. I had to wake up at 5:00 in the morning to shovel on Thursday.”

In response to concerns from day students like Chamon, Elliott reiterated that the school does suggest possible courses of action for those who may be unable to commute.

“Knowing that we have roughly 850 students on campus, we’re going to maintain classes as long as kids are here… [What] we invite day students to do is reach out to their cluster dean and see if there are accommodations their cluster dean can help them coordinate so that they can stay with a day student that lives really close to campus or with a boarder who has a dorm that can handle it,” said Elliott.

In the future, Elliott and the rest of the team responsible for student life are considering pairing day students to dorms if they may be unable to drive to campus.

In the future, Elliott and the rest of the team responsible for student life are considering pairing day students to dorms if they may be unable to drive to campus.

“We have so many different configurations of dorms, and different dorms are able to accommodate different kids in different ways, so as of now it’s not a policy where we pair day students with dorms. That’s been something that we’ve talked about for some time. It’s not clear that every day student would want that affiliation,” said Elliott.

Another possible solution to the difficulties wrought by dangerous weather conditions is online classes, according to Elliott.

“I do think a number of faculty members are experimenting with creative ways of doing class online or doing different things so that kids can engage remotely. I can imagine us moving in that direction more and more,” said Elliott

For now, Elliott urges those who live off campus to put safety first.

“We want day students and day student families to make decisions that are based upon the safety… of their kids. We would never want to put a student or family in a situation where they felt like they [need] to commute in dangerous conditions,” said Elliott.