How COVID online learning is canceling snow days

Some districts go asynchronous so students can still enjoy snow days
By: | October 29, 2020
A growing number of school districts now have the flexibility to count online learning on snow days toward state learning time requirements. (GettyImages/ growing number of school districts now have the flexibility to count online learning on snow days toward state learning time requirements. (GettyImages/

An early winter storm in the Midwest this week did not give students in many districts what they might have eagerly expected: a snow day.

Thanks to the COVID-era shift to remote instruction, high school and middle school students at Valley Center Schools near Wichita, Kansas, continued with online learning on Monday when, in past years, the weather would have given them a day off.

“It wasn’t a big disruption even though we were not expecting a snow day in October,” says Superintendent Cory Gibson. whose district operates a 1-to-1 program that covers 4th- through 12th-grade.

Up until the pandemic hit this year, only in-person learning counted toward the required instructional hours in Kansas and qualified a district to receive the associated funding, Gibson says.

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Valley Center also condensed its school year—for the first time ever, classes started after Labor Day.

That meant the district had to leverage the growing comfort with online learning to recapture snow days that students would previously have missed.

The district’s high schools and middle schools have been on hybrid learning this year, while elementary students have returned to classrooms full-time.

With the COVID infection rising in Kansas, this week’s online learning day is helping prepare the community for the possibility of returning to full remote instruction, Gibson says.

The district, however, might still have to declare a snow day if the weather was so bad that administrators could not travel safely to school buildings or offer meal service.

Asynchronous on snow days

Students in Pueblo School District 60 in Colorado also participated in remote learning Monday on what would traditionally have been a snow day.

The adjustment was smoother because, back in March when the COVID pandemic struck, administrators accelerated their 1-to-1 with a quick order of devices, says R. Dalton Sprouse, the district’s director of communications.

While all families can remain remote-only, the district’s elementary schools have returned to full time in-person while middle and high schools are following a hybrid schedule.

“K through 12, we have the flexibility and the ability to remove to a remote learning environment at a moment’s notice,” Sprouse says.

Going forward, teachers will be asked to provide asynchronous learning on snow days.

“That’s so students are able to do work on their time, and still enjoy the day,” Sprouse says.

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