A vicious nor’easter that brought blizzard-like conditions and more than a foot of snow to New Jersey will force Seton Hall to close its campuses for a second consecutive day on Tuesday – though classes and University operations will continue remotely.
The storm, dubbed Winter Storm Orlena by weather watchers, dumped 12.5 inches snow on South Orange by noon on Monday and brought much of the region’s transportation system to a screeching halt.
The state will remain under a winter storm warning until at least 6 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service, which cautioned that there could be additional snow accumulations of three to five inches until then, as well as wind gusts up to 45 mph.
Briefing the press on Monday from the Statewide Traffic Management Center in Woodbridge, Gov. Phil Murphy cautioned New Jerseyans that the storm was “going to get worse before it gets better.”
“I cannot be more forceful about this - unless there is a reason to be on the roads, do not be on the roads,” he said. “If you don’t need to be out, do not go out. if you’re out now and you don’t need to be out, safely go back home.”
Murphy also announced that the state would remain under a State of Emergency in response to the storm and ordered all state offices and the six state-run COVID-19 vaccination mega-sites to close for a second day on Tuesday.
Though the storm may have brought more snow than some have seen in years, classes still persisted for Seton Hall students – albeit in an entirely remote format that most have become familiar with since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I wasn’t really surprised that they announced classes would be online rather than just giving us the day off,” Brian Sumereau, a senior finance and information technology major, said. “At this point, we’ve become so accustomed to online learning that whether it’s rain, shine, a pandemic or snow, classes will go on.”
Still, Sumereau noted that the move was not without its complications, using an example of a course he had on Monday where his professor’s young children were home for a traditional snow day.
“Her kids were popping into the room and were distracting her from her ability to teach,” he said. “The lack of uniformity between K-12 schools and universities in how to treat inclement weather brings up a few concerns and special-case scenarios that make it difficult for certain people, especially those who live with family or other school-age children.”
Many colleges in the region have opted to take a similar route as Seton Hall, including the Rutgers University System and Montclair University, both of which said that despite the closure of their physical facilities, classes would continue virtually.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District, which was set to resume hybrid instruction on Monday instead was forced to order its students to continue with virtual learning due to the storm.
Still, the decision to pivot to remote was not popular with some, who expressed worries about student burnout during an already taxing year in which both fall and spring break were eliminated to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Emily Archibald, a junior diplomacy and international relations major, said that she was concerned that the pivot to remote learning over the inclement weather sets a precedent that could result in the elimination of snow days altogether in the future – though the University has not yet indicated that this would be the case.
“I understand we can still have class, but to compact our semester and give us no breaks has already reared its ugly head last semester, so to make the decision to have us constantly going seems a bit much,” she said. “Burnout is real, and if the administration keeps acting like all we need are weekends and SAB stress relief activities, I'm afraid we could see detrimental effects on students.”
Cece Pateman, a senior studying elementary and special education, also said she was dissatisfied with the decision to press on with classes in spite of the storm, adding that since the onset of the pandemic she has noticed that working from home has caused people to overwork themselves.
“Since there is no home versus school or home versus work, there are no boundaries. Without boundaries, people are pushing way past their limits,” she said. “With this all being said, we no longer have our morning or evening commutes to reflect, our fall or spring breaks, our weekends to relax guilt free, and now snow days.”
Pateman said that she believes breaks are crucial to preventing burnout, and that “whether you are a 5-year-old who wants to build an igloo, or an adult who needs to catch up on their favorite book, we deserve a day off.”
As Daniel Mikrut, a senior majoring in IT management, succinctly described Monday’s announcement: “We lost our fall and spring breaks, and now we lost our beloved snow days. School just isn’t what it used to be.”
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr.