Love snow days? They're becoming a thing of the past Perry Stephens waits to move her car after multiple collisions occurred at an intersection, following a snowfall in Duluth, Minnesota on November 10th (Reuters)
Love snow days? They're becoming a thing of the past
Lexile

She's no Grinch about it, but Lynn Grewing is the principal who stole snow days.

The early arrival of wintry weather in the Midwest gave Grewing an opening to test out a virtual class day at St. Cloud Cathedral high school in central Minnesota. Grewing is having students whip out laptops or iPads and work from home. After a successful test run, Grewing declared that the students' cherished snow days are a thing of the past at least at Cathedral.

"This is what we will be doing every single snow day going forward," she said. "I'll be honest. There has been some grumbling."

Private schools like Cathedral and, increasingly, some public school districts are starting to use the flexibility that technology provides to work around weather, meeting school mandates without make-up days.

Last winter's brutal cold and snow forced the cancellation of five days of class at Grewing's school, leading to school days during Easter Break and pushing the school year a few days into summer. The polar vortex got Grewing thinking about how to bring another Minnesota private school's successful virtual class setup to Cathedral.

A test run was planned when the threat of record snows closed schools in the St. Cloud area, about 60 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Principal Grewing ensured teachers had their assignments and lesson plans posted on the school's online portal by 10 a.m. for their seventh- through 12th-graders.

Cathedral senior Tommy Auger said doing classwork on his school MacBook Air from home didn't feel much different than a day in class. His math teacher even put up videos to walk students through solving problems.

Once they got over the initial disappointment of missing out on a free day, Auger said he and his classmates agreed they'd prefer to skip out on a day of sledding rather than make-up days in the summer.

"It's hard to think ahead, but it's definitely better," he said.

It's an easier choice for smaller private schools like Cathedral, which has provided all its students with high-end laptops. But what about public school students who don't have that equipment, or don't have Internet access at home?

A panel from Minnesota's Department of Education has been wrestling with how to effectively bring virtual classes to public schools. Department spokesman Josh Collins said the state hasn't received much interest from school districts.

Iowa public schools found a work-around for Minnesota's concerns. Students without computer or Internet access get sent home with "blizzard bags" of homework. More than half of the state's 1,000 school districts have submitted plans to the state for hosting virtual makeup days.

More than 2,000 public high school students outside of New York City logged into their MacBook Airs from home as a storm bore down on the East Coast last February. Their superintendent, Erik Gundersen from Pascack Valley Regional High School District, is hoping lawmakers change state law so those virtual class days count toward the state's 180-day mandate.

"It's not right for every day," Gundersen said. "From time to time, when school needs to be closed, it's a great way to continue the learning."

Critical thinking challenge: Why do virtual days make more sense for Cathedral than most public schools?

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COMMENTS (108)
  • LeslieS-Ver
    11/14/2014 - 09:14 a.m.

    I think its better to go home on bad weather days and do homework. Its better going home and do lots of work than going to school on a really bad day.

  • JasonG-Ver
    11/14/2014 - 09:18 a.m.

    It may seem like a good thing for education, but kids need a day off from school sometimes. Maybe the teachers could just send a small worksheet for the kids to work on so they are kept up on their work, but do not stop snow day.

  • JasonG-Ver
    11/14/2014 - 09:18 a.m.

    It may seem like a good thing for education, but kids need a day off from school sometimes. Maybe the teachers could just send a small worksheet for the kids to work on so they are kept up on their work, but do not stop snow day.

  • KMartin-Sti
    11/14/2014 - 12:02 p.m.

    I dont know if i would like having to do home work at home but if i dont have to go to school one extra day so i think i would start to like it

  • IM2000food
    11/14/2014 - 01:05 p.m.

    virtual days make more sense for cathedral because they have provided there students with high end laptops for education this helps provide an more up to date learning experience.

  • jacob.francel46
    11/14/2014 - 01:08 p.m.

    I do not agree with this article, I think kids need to have a day off some times and have fun. When it's snowing they're probably having by sledding, snowball fights, etc. or doing chores like shoveling the snow. I do not agree I think it's messed up. People have stuff to day at home they don't just stay sitting down playing games or watching TV. People have lives out of schools.

  • 1AugieK
    11/14/2014 - 01:08 p.m.

    We can learn lessons from this, in my opinion, heartbreaking story. To those of us who are used to relying on a snow day to take the pressure off of us during the monotonous school weeks, this seems inhumane. To the people who actually have these days, though, it seems alright because it is now just part of their system. We can learn that not everything is black or white, and that there are alternative ways to learn despite the snow. This article says that you can either have a snow day with days off of the summer, which is what I would personally want, or you can have virtual days and the full summer.This teaches us that you can't always make the important decisions.

  • NoahMurr15
    11/14/2014 - 01:33 p.m.

    It is cool how now that you can class at home. If you have a snow you stay you can take out your laptop and iPad and still homework.

  • AlexisKrise
    11/14/2014 - 01:37 p.m.

    If only public schools would do this, though it would cost billions of dollars that we don't have, it would be a great way for students to do their work.

  • JakobB-Ver
    11/14/2014 - 02:27 p.m.

    In this school,no snow days so people are angry about that for five days there was still school and so 2,000 high schools did school at home during snow days.

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