Online learning possible for snow days

Snow days haven’t happened in about half of the 21 years that Minot Public Schools Superintendent Mark Vollmer has been with the school district. But last year there were four snow days.

Vollmer said it might have been nice to have the option of holding school online or sending kids home the day before bad weather with packets of school work they could do while they are home.

The Minot Public School Board gave administrators permission last Thursday to continue developing a plan for what to do on such a snow day.

Last year, when historic snowfall hit, the district did not have to make up any of the snow days because they had banked enough teacher-student contact hours according to state guidelines. The State Legislature had previously changed some of the rules around when school districts have to make up snow days. Ordinarily, those days might get made up toward the end of a school year.

Vollmer said educators have been working on how to handle education on a snow day. If there is a bad weather forecast for the next day, elementary school children might be sent home with a packet of school work to do while they are at home or staying with grandparents or neighbors. Older students would be reminded to take home their Chromebooks and work on assignments through Google Classroom.

A prompt to take home packets or work online wouldn’t necessarily mean that school will definitely be called off due to a storm, just that it is a possibility. School districts across the state learned about the potential of virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, virtual learning also has some drawbacks, school board president Jim Rostad mentioned. For instance, learning declines across the country have been attributed in part to the pandemic.

Vollmer said using virtual learning as an option if school has to be called off could help learning continue. It also could be used for reasons other than weather emergencies. For instance, a few years ago, one school had to call off classes for a day or so when there was a plumbing emergency.

The board has made no decisions yet on whether to utilize virtual learning during a snow day.


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