Could the internet mean the end of snow days? Some schools think so, and they are experimenting with ways for students to do lessons online during bad weather, potentially allowing classes to go on during even the worst blizzard.
“Virtual snow days” would help ease pressure on school calendars. Because districts are required to be in session for a certain number of hours or days, losing teaching time to winter weather can mean extending the school day or cutting short spring break or summer vacation.
And canceling school in the winter, when some of the most difficult material of the year is covered, risks leaving students with a learning deficit heading into the spring, when many states administer standardized tests.
“Even if you can’t continue on at the same pace, being able to keep students on track can make a huge difference,” said Doug Levin, executive director of the nonprofit State Educational Technology Directors Association.
Virtual learning, which has been widely used by colleges and universities for years, is becoming more viable for younger students as teachers and administrators grow comfortable with the technology. Online learning also saves money because districts don’t have to pay for transportation, electricity, and custodians.
But there are obstacles, too. Many families don’t have internet access with speeds that would support complex classroom-style work, especially in rural areas and impoverished inner cities. Families with multiple children—without multiple computers—could be hard-pressed to keep up.
And some people say kids just need an occasional extra day off in the depths of winter.