Snow days will be free days for most Ohio students this school year, despite a state law that could turn some of them into days of online classes.
Only a few central Ohio school districts submitted the paperwork that lets them use a 2-year-old law allowing them to hold online classes up to three days a year. Those days would count as full school days.
Schools lobbied for the law so that, once they use up their five so-called “calamity days,” they can avoid adding days to the end of the year.
But this year, only about 120 of Ohio’s 614 districts applied to use the online classes. That’s 20 more than last school year.
Westerville is the only district in Franklin County to prepare for the online option, joined by Olentangy schools in Delaware County and a handful of school districts in nearby counties.
Rural school districts were more likely to sign up for the option, with only one of Ohio’s “big eight” urban districts, Cincinnati schools, readying for online days. But some districts tout the fact that, with a few keystrokes, they can make assignments for every grade and subject accessible from home.
“In case of a calamity day, it just takes one person to go in and turn the link on,” said Chris Deis, supervisor of instructional technology at the Olentangy district.
The toughest task was creating the system to store ready-made lessons crafted by teachers, Deis said. Once it’s in place, though, it’s easy for teachers to edit or swap out assignments, he said.
“Some went in and updated throughout the year to make sure they were timely,” he said. “Some had things that could more or less be done any other year.”
Teachers must submit three lessons by the start of the year, and the law says they should update tasks as often as possible. Some lessons that Westerville submitted this year focus on specific subjects, such as projectile motion, but many ask students to take past versions of state tests.
Students are supposed to take a lesson for each class they would have attended at school. The point is to mimic a day at school, but students have two weeks to finish the tasks, in part to accommodate those without internet access at home.
The law also lets schools distribute “blizzard bags” at the beginning of the year, with work students are to do in case class is called off. But officials in some districts say that option shouldn’t replace face-to-face teaching.