Could Online Public Schooling Eliminate Snow Days?

The coronavirus outbreak across the United States has caused many schools to turn to online classes. With it has come a host of problems including students misusing various different features enabled in online class meetings, connection issues for all parties involved and lack of engagement from students.

“The live Zooms have not been good,” one teacher told Guy Boston Sports. “Kids are acting up. They’re trying to be jokesters… it’s a little bit distracting at times.”

Despite the lack of success for some teachers, it may surprise you that certain schools are seriously considering using these tools in the future to hold class during weather-related cancellations. In fact, some schools have begun testing this option as early as 2018. “This is something we’re having discussions about and we were having discussions about that anyway, before coronavirus was a thing.”

The silver lining during this pandemic is that it has given more schools an opportunity to test out the various different programs available for online learning and they’ve been able to figure out what works and what doesn’t. If these platforms add features that give teachers more control over their online classrooms, including hiding the screens of those certain students acting up so their fellow classmates can’t see them, could fix many of the problems certain teachers are facing.

“I think that will be the way of the future where we’re going to do those online lessons in some capacity [during weather-related school closures].”

Students don’t seem too opposed to the idea of losing snow days forever either. One high school junior said of the idea, “Now that everyone is comfortable with it as a way of learning, it would be a realistic option. I wouldn’t mind it if we were given a reasonable workload.”

However, another teacher from a different school district wasn’t as optimistic about the future of online classes in public schools.

“One of the problems that we found when we went to remote learning was that not all students had equal access to the internet.” this teacher explained. He went on to estimate that roughly 4% of the student body at his school didn’t have an internet connection in their homes.

“The solution was to provide them with mobile hotspots which were generously offered by some of the internet providers in the area. The school was also involved in making sure that these students had access to technology and to internet, without that you have a real inequity and that hinders remote instruction whether it be a snow day or any other kind of school closure… Unless we have 100% access, it isn’t an option.”

These decisions will be far from universal. School districts will each have to decide what is best for their student body. While this may not be a realistic option for all schools in the country, it seems likely that we will start to see these online learning tools utilized in certain areas of the country rather soon, while some lower-income areas lag behind.

The newfound comfortability many schools now have with this way of teaching will only further the popularity of holding online classes during school closures and could ultimately mean the end of snow days for good.

Photo: (Kiichiro Sato – AP Photo)

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