With some pre-planning, schools and districts can turn snow days into learning opportunities
The latest winter storm to pound the Northeast left a foot or two of snow in its wake, in the process shutting down much of the tri-state region, limiting access to roads, flights, and, of course, preventing schools from opening.
While the amount of snow needed for schools to close varies by region, there is no denying that excessive snow days have begun to bleed into summer vacation over the past few years. Luckily, some school administrators have found a new approach to end snow days for good.
The solution is called “e-learning days,” or days dedicated to doing schoolwork over the internet.
E-learning brings massive benefits to any school district. They have the potential to save schools lots of money—buses don’t need to be deployed extra days at the end of the year, the school building doesn’t need additional heating, and hourly staff have the day off. Online learning also helps teachers reduce their stress load. It provides a predictable avenue for educators to budget their curriculum goals with available teaching days. Finally, e-learning days provide students with academic consistency and predictability, eliminating any snow day confusion.
E-learning is already becoming increasingly popular. Twenty-seven states offer online classes and 24 states (along with the District of Columbia) offer full-time virtual schools—as many as one million children in K-12 are already participating in these programs. Many well-respected schools are quickly making use of e-learning, including Stanford University Online High School, VISNet, and Laurel Springs. It’s time for e-learning to become common place in public schools, starting with snow days.
Of course, detractors are quick to point out that not every school can provide a virtual alternative to in-person instruction. Their most potent point is that not every child has equal access to the internet. For example, as of 2013, 75.6% of American households had a computer in the home and 71.7% had Internet access. The two largest age demographics of those with internet access are generally the same age of those raising children in K-12—18- to 29-year-olds (80%) and 30- to 49-year-olds (78%).
(Next page: 6 steps to put e-learning days into practice at your school)