The definition of “snow day” is changing for middle school and high school students in one northwest Iowa school district. Tara Paul, superintendent at Estherville Lincoln Central Schools, says there will be “online learning days” in her district when winter weather is too treacherous for students and staff to get to school.
“It’s not going to be where they are sitting behind the computer or at their device for eight hours,” Paul says. “It will be: ‘We have a five to 10 minute assignment,’ maybe ‘A 10 to 15 minute assignment’ depending on their age level and on the course.”
There could be longer assignments for high school courses.
“Our teachers will be available to the students throughout the day and that could be through email, it could be through a phone call, it could be through Google Hangout, any other video chat that the teachers choose to use,” Paul says. “The kids will be either practicing or learning material and then having an opportunity to ask questions on that material from their teachers throughout the day.”
Teachers are encouraged to collaborate on course work.
“So they won’t have any social studies the first snow day, but the second snow day social studies will have a longer activity and they won’t have any English or literacy that day,” Paul says.
The school has plotted out a schedule for up to nine snow days. The first three days classes in the classroom are cancelled will be “online learning days” for students. The next three snow days will be professional development days for staff. Snow days number seven, eight and nine — if there are that many snow days in the Estherville Lincoln Central District this season — would be more “virtual days’ for students. The school is making arrangements for students who do not have online access outside of school, so all students can be involved in the learning process during a snow day.
If the weather is truly frightful, with power being knocked out in the area, the school will opt for the traditional snow day — and kids in the Estherville Lincoln Central district will not have to check in online.
(Reporting by Matt McWilliams, KICD, Spencer)