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Thanks to Tech, Pennsylvania Schools Go Cyber with Snow Days

Luzerne County’s Dallas School District may be the only one that has implemented flexible instruction on snow days, but it joins 79 other districts in the state. The trend takes place as e-learning programs spread.

by Michael P. Buffer, The Citizens' Voice / December 11, 2019
Gender gap in STEM fields could be due to girls' reading skills, not math ability. (Dreamstime/TNS)

(TNS) — The Dallas School District is the only district in Luzerne County that has state approval to implement cyber snow days this year.

The district is close to being ready to implement flexible instruction days if bad weather forces schools to close. The state Department of Education has approved a total of 79 local education agencies for the program, according to the department’s website.

Roughly 500 school districts are in Pennsylvania. In July, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation allowing flexible instruction days that will count toward the state requirement of having at least 180 instruction days during the school year.

“If we call a snow day and we decide that it will be a flexible instruction snow say, our students will have an obligation outside of school,” Superintendent Thomas Duffy said at Monday’s school board meeting. “It would vary in Kindergarten from a folder of papers — I’m downplaying it, but that’s what it might look like — to for example a freshman in high school would have obligations on Google Classroom.”

The new program can help school districts avoid the task of adding school days to the school calendar when snow days pile up during the school year. The legislation also requires school districts who use technology for flexible instruction days to accommodate students who don’t have Internet access.

Dallas will probably plan for a flexible instruction day the day before snow is expected and only implement the flexible day if school is cancelled because of weather, Duffy said. “So that would allow students, parents, teachers, to prepare, hopefully, a solid day in advance,” Duffy explained. “The challenge we’re going to have ... as soon as we make an announcement on Tuesday at 10 in the morning — if we have a snow day tomorrow, we’re going to have a flexible instruction day. All the children are going to pump their fists in victory and say we’re having a snow day tomorrow. We have to keep reminding them. That’s if we have a snow day tomorrow, we’re having a flexible instruction day.”

The district would also provide special communication to parents of special-needs students with individualized education programs.

Students in Kindergarten through second grade would get “pencil and paper” work in a folder to do if there is a flexible day, Duffy said. Students who don’t have online access would have an alternative way to get their school work done, and students will get three days to make up work on a flexible day if there’s a legitimate reason they couldn’t do the work at home, Duffy said.

The district could still end up never using with a flexible day.

“Traditional snow make-up days will always be a possibility,” Duffy said.

If the district does implement a flexible day this year, it won’t implement another one for at least two weeks to conduct an effectiveness review, Duffy said.

School districts in the area typically expect a few snow days a year and schedule additional instruction days. But when the number of snow days exceeds the number of extra days, districts will have to reschedule school on holidays or off days or they’ll extend the school calendar.

©2019 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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