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Will Increased Online Education End Snow Days for Schools?

The days of waking up to snowfall and heading back to sleep because school is canceled may be a thing of the past, as students in Michigan and across the rest of the country acclimate to online education.

by Kayla Miller, / October 5, 2020

(TNS) — The days of waking up to snowfall and heading back to sleep because school is canceled may be a thing of the past.

Students across Michigan are learning virtually this year amid the coronavirus pandemic and inclement weather may no longer stand in the way of getting to class safely.

Though many superintendents say snow days aren’t something to worry about for another couple of months, some students have already taking to social media with jokes about saying goodbye to the cherished break from school with online learning.

Bill DiSessa, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education, said the state’s guidance on snow days remains the same for those learning in-person.

Virtual students may not be so lucky this year as MDE doesn’t anticipate requests for snow days for all-virtual instruction, he said.

Districts are offering a mix of in-person and online options. With the establishment of virtual school and distribution of resources to students across Michigan, many are wondering if virtual school will be required on days of inclement weather.

Students in Jackson County may do just that. With enough advance warning of inclement weather, Jackson Public Schools administrators can plan a “virtual day” where students complete school work from home, Superintendent Jeff Beal said.

Teachers can preload their students' devices with lessons if they know they might be unable to come to school safely, he said.

“If we know in advance that a storm is coming we will probably plan for a virtual day, but in the event that the road conditions are unexpectedly dangerous in the morning, we may need to call a snow day which would include both in-school and those students that are at home,” Beal said.

Some students may not be set up with the proper technology or have WiFi access at home so they can’t pivot to virtual school without notice, he said.

At the K-12 charter school, da Vinci Institute, in Jackson County, virtual school may be used if bad weather keeps kids from the classroom for multiple days in a row, Superintendent Sandy Maxson said.

“If we end up with a hard winter with many days, we will not want our kids to go without school work and connections with their teachers too long,” she said.

In February 2019, stretches of dangerously cold temperatures closed schools and districts quickly used up the grace days allotted to them by the MDE.

Michigan law allows districts to be forgiven for six days of closures due to conditions beyond their control such as weather and power outages before having to make up lost instructional days.

An additional three days may be granted with the approval of the state superintendent.

District leaders are solving a lot of problems that didn’t exist in years past, and how to handle snow days is just another unprecedented aspect of 2020.

“We know it will snow,” Lansing School District spokesperson Bob Kolt said.

Students in Lansing are currently learning remotely from home while teachers give lessons from inside the classroom, Kolt said. He said administrators are working on plans to bring kids back to the classroom in November.

Whether students will be required to learn virtually from home if they can’t come to school in-person safely is yet to be decided, he said.

In Kent County, the vast majority of the 8,000 students in Rockford Public Schools are learning in-person, Superintendent Michael Shibler said. But for the about 1,000 students learning online from home, instruction could continue despite heavy snowfall or frigid temperatures.

Shibler is hopeful he won’t see heavy snowfall for another couple of months.

“I have not made any conclusive decisions," he said.

Kalamazoo Public Schools first has to decide whether to transition students to some in-person learning, spokesperson Susan Coney said.

If students begin in-person learning at the end of November, the district will create a plan for snow days, Coney said. Currently, the district’s about 12,000 students are learning remotely from home on virtual platforms.

In the meantime, students can keep the spoons under their pillows and hope for that beloved snow day.

©2020, Walker, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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