Good Question: Why don’t schools use virtual learning on snow days?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Why don’t schools switch to virtual during snow days?

During the height of the COVID-19 shutdown, virtual programs made it possible for students to continue their school work online, outside of the classroom. However, during snow days, schools are canceled.

Lisa asks: “Why do schools have to close for snow days when during COVID, they were set up to go remote?”

I reached out to a couple local superintendents. Greece superintendent Laurel Heiden says it’s not as easy to switch between virtual and in-person as you might think. There are a couple of reasons why.

Virtual learning programs use specific links for students to connect with teachers online. Those links would need to be reactivated and sent out to students, which is not easy on short notice.

Teachers develop lesson plans for in-person classes, meaning students might not have the materials at home that are typically available in the classroom. One example is lab equipment.

Virtual learning boils down to digital infrastructure. It took districts weeks to get set up for virtual learning at the beginning of the pandemic and it’s not as simple as flipping a switch to reactivate it for a couple of days a year.

The good news is districts plan for snow days. New York State requires 180 days in a public school year. Some districts include extra days in their school calendar in anticipation of emergency closure days.

So, while snow days might seem like missed instruction days, they’re actually already built into the school calendar.

A lot of times, schools have to close without much notice. That’s often the case with snow days. If a district has to close for more days than it originally planned, there are contingency plans in place. One option is using a day during a school break week for instruction.

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