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West Virginia school superintendent tells kids to ‘go build a snowman’ in viral letter


A West Virginia school superintendent went viral this week after closing schools for a snow day and encouraging students and staff to “enjoy a day of sledding and hot chocolate and cozy fires,” despite virtual, at-home classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

“For generations, families have greeted the first snow day of the year with joy. It is a time of renewed wonder at all the beautiful things that each season holds. A reminder of how fleeting a childhood can be. An opportunity to make some memories with your family that you hold onto for life,” Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson wrote in a letter to teachers, school staff, students and parents on Tuesday.

She said that the school district is “closed for students… closed for virtual… closed for staff. It has been a year of seemingly endless loss and the stress of trying to make up for that loss. For just a moment, we can all let go of the worry of making up for the many things we missed by making sure this is one thing our kids won’t lose this year.” 

“So please, enjoy a day of sledding and hot chocolate and cozy fires. Take pictures of your kids in snow hats they will outgrow by next year and read books that you have wanted to lose yourself in, but haven’t had the time. We will return to the serious and urgent business of growing up on Thursday, but for tomorrow… go build a snowman,” Gibson wrote. 

Posted by Jefferson County Schools, WV on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The message quickly went viral on social media, with parents, students and others grateful for the message during a year when the coronavirus pandemic has caused proms, graduations, sporting events and other school activities to be canceled for students of all ages. 

The Jefferson County School District is holding virtual classes for students due to the spread of COVID-19 in the county. Schools are offering meal packs and other services for students, according to the district’s Facebook page. 

Gibson told The Washington Post that she drafted the letter in under 30 minutes on Monday when forecasts predicted that snow would hit Jefferson County and areas across the East Coast.

She told the Post that she has been overwhelmed by the response to her message. Gibson said community members shared photos of area children playing in the show during the day off, and social media users from outside of the district also applauded the move. 

“People are hungry for some joy. They want to see a light at the end of this tunnel,” Gibson said. “Some of that heaviness was suspended for just a day.” 

Gibson said she baked chocolate chip muffins and played in the snow with her son and dogs.

The superintendent also told the Post she has received no criticism from parents or staff over the letter. Jefferson County Schools shared photos of students enjoying their snow day on Thursday.

We so enjoyed seeing your pictures from yesterday’s snow day. Please keep them coming so we can carry that joy with us into 2021 as we get back to learning this morning.

Posted by Jefferson County Schools, WV on Thursday, December 17, 2020

The move also inspired other school leaders. Michele Dowell, superintendent of Belle Vernon Area School District in Pennsylvania, shared a letter with parents on Tuesday saying that she saw Gibson’s message and that she was also calling a snow day.

“Take tomorrow afternoon to let go of the stress and worry of school and make some special memories with your families,” Dowell wrote.  

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We would love to see pictures of what you did on your Snow Day! You can send them to Dr. Dowell. Have fun!

Posted by Belle Vernon Area School District on Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 West Virginia

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