Money & Business

So Long, Snow Days? School Groups Say Telecommuting Works For Students, Too

By / Feb 19, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Feeling additional pressure because of the many weather-related closings this winter, some school districts are looking at e-learning to keep kids in class virtually. School administrator groups say it could be the wave of the future.

Could the snow day soon meet its match?

It’s common for employees who are stuck at home due to the elements to hop on their laptops to keep working. But most students don’t have that luxury. When winter weather is at its worst, many school districts are forced to cancel classes—and if a lot of school days fall victim to bad weather, that could mean a lot of make-up days at the end of the year and a shorter summer break.

But with the help of new virtual learning tools, some school districts (most notably in the suburbs of Chicago, as the Chicago Tribune notes) have taken to giving their students educational options that work even when it’s too snowy or cold to walk outside. And with the lessons often flexible to make things easier on the students, the results have shown their effectiveness thus far.

Replacing Normal School

As The New York Times notes, some school districts, such as the Pascack Valley Regional High School District in New Jersey, have gone so far as to attempt to replace snow days with virtual school days—a program that school system began testing after Hurricane Sandy significantly disrupted the school year in 2012.

An Ohio law that went into effect also allows its schools to replace “calamity” days with e-learning days, according to Education Week—something that many districts in that state already have begun to do.

However, rather than forcing students to finish the assignments at the pace of their peers, Ohio students get up to two weeks to finish an assignment—an important distinction that assists students who do not have access to a computer at home.

Association Takes

Despite the issues of economic disparity to contend with (not everyone has internet access, for example, and wealthier districts are more likely to give children access to laptops), groups focused on school-administration needs are interested in e-learning.

“We see that the potential is there for this to grow,” American Association of School Administrators Executive Director Dan Domenech told USA Today. “Today, not many schools are doing it. In 10 years, that number will change dramatically. Learning will eventually be able to take place anywhere—not just inside a school building.”

The National School Boards Association’s Ann Flynn told The Times that about one-third of school districts have “one-to-one initiatives” that match up children with laptops. The biggest benefits of expanding these initiatives “could be their application in times of health crises or in weather emergencies,” she said.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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