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Snow Days and E-Learning: A Roundup of News Coverage

By Benjamin Herold — January 22, 2016 3 min read
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With much of the East Coast and mid-Atlantic hunkering down before Winter Storm Jonas, Education Week decided to round up some recent coverage of how K-12 schools are using technology and online resources to change the way learning happens on snow days.

1. Snow Days Turn Into E-Learning Days for Some Schools

Of course, Education Week has taken a thorough and comprehensive look at this issue: During the big snows and deep freeze of 2014, we reviewed a couple of big research studies about the impact that snow days have on students’ academic achievement (different studies came to different conclusions); looked at how states such as Ohio were trying new laws to promote e-learning on “calamity” days; and examined how some Michigan teachers tried posting student assignments online.

2. E-Learning on Snow Days Now an Option for Pennsylvania Schools

3. E-Learning on Snow Days in Pennsylvania, Kentucky Raises Concerns

That same year, Education Week took a look at new policies in two states: Kentucky, which planned to let 13 districts replace snow days with home-based Internet instruction, and Pennsylvania, which approved a plan to let districts submit proposals for “flexible instructional days” in the event of inclement weather.

While many hailed the moves as a step into the 21st century, the lack of adequate Internet connectivity in many parts of both states was raised a major challenge that might lead to barriers for some students, particularly those living in poor and rural districts.

4. Snow Makeup Days Could Soon Be Absent From School Schedules

More recently (as in earlier this week), The Courier-Times of New Castle, Ind., and other news outlets in the state covered the Indiana Department of Education’s newly introduced “‘virtual option’ for instructors to teach online during snow days rather than add days to the school year.” With many schools in the New Castle district on their way to being 1-to-1, in which a school-issued device given to every student, superintendent Steve Fisher told the Courier-Times the new policy was a “win-win.”

5. West Chicago High School Named E-Learning Day Pilot School

Also this year, the Illinois Board of Education selected three districts to take part in a three-year pilot program in which schools can use e-learning strategies in lieu of snow days, reported West Chicago Suburban Life. Among the districts participating: District 94 in Illinois, which will be leveraging its recent deployment of Chromebooks to students to make the initiative work.

6. School Systems Replacing Snow Days With Online Learning

7. E-days - Web-powered, At-home Schooling - Here to Stay for Alabama Students

Dealing with snow days isn’t just a challenge for districts north of the Mason-Dixon line.

In 2015, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported on the efforts of district such as Georgia’s Forsyth County, then in its second year of using a new online learning management system, to offer online classes and assignments during snow days. Also quoted by the AJC was Matt Arkin of Georgia’s online Cyber Academy:

If you are just throwing this out as a one-off when students are home, it's going to be a challenge ... Just slapping some Powerpoints online and a multiple-choice question test is not going to work."

Similarly, AL.com reported that year Alabama districts such as Jefferson County and Mountain Brook had begun building e-days into their calendars “to get students and parents used to completing assignments electronically so that in the event of an inclement weather day or other sudden school closure, they can seamlessly complete their work and not have to make up the missed school day.”

Now, if there were just some way we could get those mobile e-learning technologies safely attached to our sleds, so the joy of the old-school snow day isn’t lost forever...

Photo: Marshall Hahn parks his snowmobile at Warrod High School in northern Minnesota last week. Although the senior had no trouble getting to campus, recent bouts of very cold and snowy weather in many states have kept students out of school, often for days at a time.--Tim Gruber for Education Week

Library intern Maya Riser-Kositsky contributed to this story.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.