What is the Impact of Remote Learning on Snow Days?

What is the Impact of Remote Learning on Snow Days?

Peter Phelan, Managing Editor

Turning pajamas inside out. Putting ice cubes in the toilet. Feverishly checking Ben Noll’s Twitter page for updates. Will remote learning make these traditions a relic of the past?

A traditional highlight of the winter months for students, snow days provide an unexpected, yet welcome break from the routine of school.

“Those days are amazing breaks that students and teachers get,” said Joe Gonzalez, a junior.

However, with the adoption of remote learning in the era of COVID-19, the traditional snow day may be in jeopardy.

Dr. Eric Hassler, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, said that school districts are required to have 180 instructional days and the teacher’s contract prohibits more than 183 instructional days. Many school districts, including Monroe-Woodbury, allot additional days in anticipation of cancellations due to weather. Dr. Hassler explained that this school year has 187 days on the calendar which provides a buffer of seven days for the district.

In past years, when inclement weather prevented safe transportation to and from school, classes would be cancelled for the day. Now that the district has the capability to hold classes virtually, cancelling school may be unnecessary. 

According to Carole Spendley, the school district’s community relations coordinator, the latest policy from the New York State Education Department is the establishment of “…a Remote Snow Day Pilot which allows districts to pivot to remote instruction on what would normally be a day of school closure due to a snow emergency.” 

This pilot program leaves the policy to the discretion of individual school districts so they can tailor it to their specific needs. Spendley explained that “this pilot is in effect for the 2020-21 school year, after which the Department will review the outcome of the pilot in determining whether to continue this flexibility in subsequent school years.”

Some New York State school districts have already decided on their policy. For example, the New York City Department of Education, which runs one of the largest school districts in the country, has decided that they will use remote learning in place of snow days for the 2020-21 school year.

Regarding Monroe-Woodbury’s policy, Spendley said that, “We have not quite settled on a final plan regarding snow days as of yet–discussions are underway.”

Some students supported a shift to remote learning. Junior Kevin Felmley, said, “They should do asynchronous on snow days at least.” 

Others wanted snow days to remain untouched. Junior Jason Cole said “I believe snow days should stay as is, when there’s a lot of snow, no school.”

Depending on Monroe-Woodbury’s decision, there may be a surplus of days, exceeding the 183 day maximum.

“If snow days are not used (either instruction goes remote or we have a mild winter with few/no snow days), days of attendance will be taken off the calendar, but we do not know yet which days those will be,” said Dr. Hassler.

This story will be updated as further information on Monroe-Woodbury’s policy is released.