This week, we had several inches of snow. My school, along with many others around the country, opted out of in-person school. The weather dictated that it was best to avoid having students, families, and staff traveling on the roads. There is nothing new about this. Snow days are as old as public schools themselves. What is different about this for us is that we fell back on our massive Covid-19 technology and internet expansion and made this an e-learning day.
Many suburban schools already had e-learning days in place of snow days, but it was not something that an inner-city school would have been able to pull off prior to this year’s pandemic driven digital initiatives. I was excited to try this format. We have now done it. Here are the pros and cons for e-learning inclement weather days for any schools considering replicating the practice.
Pro: Students still get some practice and instruction.
Obviously the biggest positive around e-learning days vs traditional snow days is the fact that students are not sitting at home doing nothing. It may not be the same as being in the building, but there is still something constructive students can do at home via e-learning, and students need that practice.
Con: It still probably messes up your instructional plan.
While I was able to find something to do for students that was worthwhile, it wasn’t the EXACT lesson that I wanted to do with students had we been in person. So, it isn’t the same as having school just at home.
Pro: It keeps you from having to venture out in bad weather.
Schools seem to be reluctant to call snow days. Many times I find myself driving to work on ice, slipping and sliding, because nobody wants to make the call to cancel school. There is less guilt behind an e-learning day and less pressure for schools to still make people come in during inclement weather.
Con: Teachers with young children must pull double duty.
If the weather is really bad typically some daycares will be closed as well. On a regular snow day that doesn’t matter because teachers are at home with their kids anyway, but it’s different during e-learning. I have a 3-month-old baby that I could not drop off at childcare. She was most unconcerned with the class I had to teach and cried during my class forcing me to step away.
(It is worth noting that this particular problem was only a problem because my school has a Zoom structure where we deliver content. Some schools have students work on independent work during this time which would have been less of a problem with children.)
Pro: It keeps you from having makeup days in the summer.
The state counts e-learning days as regular school days. This means schools don’t have to run into the summer to meet the minimum required days for instruction.
Con: There is no guarantee everyone has power or internet.
As we have seen in Texas, weather causes problems outside of school buses and education. If the weather is bad enough to cancel school, it may be bad enough to leave your students or teachers without power or internet. That would make an e-learning day hard to pull off.
In the end, I am satisfied with the way my school’s e-learning snow day went. Obviously, I would not argue with an impromptu day off, but it was fine. Also, it remains to be seen how this would work in a situation where students are not familiar with the e-learning process as students were already in the habit and routine of logging on for instruction.