Weather prognosticator extraordinaire Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, which means another six weeks of winter weather if you believe in the legend. Either way, depending on where you’re at in the world, there’s still a whole lot of winter left, which has some school administrators and teachers pulling their hair out from all the snow days that have already been racked up this winter. For many school districts, this means extending the school year beyond the originally chosen last day of school to make up for excessive snow days beyond the handful already built into the academic schedule. After all, public schools have to meet their state’s requirements for hours of classroom instruction. But maintaining student engagement on makeup days that would otherwise be summer vacation is especially difficult. But there’s now a growing movement to ease this frustration, and it’s eLearning days that are proving to be a viable alternative.
Some States Working on eLearning Days Legislation
Minnesota is one state that has been working on legislation that would allow schools to convert some snow days into eLearning days, also called virtual days. In this scenario, students would receive online assignments they could work on from home. Seems simple enough, but there are challenges. Some subjects adapt more easily to online work than others, and for some, it might not work at all (physical education comes to mind). To qualify as a replacement for classroom instruction, teachers would need to be available to interact with students online or over the phone to answer questions and provide any needed assistance during regular school hours. Then there’s the matter of whether or not all students have an Internet connection at home, or have enough devices available for multiple children if needed. Further accommodations might be needed for students with learning disabilities or physical disabilities. And families would have to be notified at least a couple hours in advance whether or not a given snow day is going to become an eLearning day. Other states that have implemented or are exploring eLearning days as replacements for school cancellations include Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Indiana allows eLearning days for school cancellation makeup, but each school district has to apply and be approved to do it. So far, 170 districts have taken the plunge. The approval process includes being able to address the various challenges mentioned above.
eLearning Days for More than Snow Days
While snow days tend to be relatively dispersed, as in one here and one there, other natural disasters can shut down schools for longer periods of time, as Houston found out the hard way thanks to Hurricane Harvey, and many Florida school districts had to shut down as a result of Hurricane Irma. A number of institutions of higher education in both areas were able to quickly transition students into online courses because they had already been working on that all along. For K-12 schools, however, making such a rapid transition is impossible. And of course, there’s still the problem of electricity, Internet, and cell phone outages that can nix even virtual eLearning days.
As global warming continues to result in climate change that often translates into more severe weather incidents, eLearning days are bound to become an increasingly popular solution to make up for school cancellations.