How to handle snow days? N.J. could learn a few lessons from other states
Posted March 13, 2018 at 07:13 AM | Updated March 13, 2018 at 07:51 AM
By Rob Jennings | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
A Roxbury school bus in the snow, Feb. 8, 2017 (Robert Sciarrino / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
For public school students in New Jersey, there is no such thing as learning from home during a snowstorm. The state law requiring at least 180 days of in-class instruction per school year poses a thorny challenge when winter gets rough.
Districts grappling with more weather-related cancellations than expected have scrapped spring break or extended the school year deep into June, wrecking havoc with planned vacations by students and staff.
Yet, with companies increasingly receptive to employees working from home, some other states across the country are applying the same principle to their public schools.
New Jersey has not yet allowed these creative solutions to the snow day conundrum.
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A student waiting to board a school bus in Morris Plains, March 10, 2017 (Robert Sciarrino / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Blizzard bag days
Ohio and New Hampshire, for several years, have allowed “blizzard bag days.”
While rules vary, the general concept involves the equivalent of a full days’ classwork work, either via assignments sent home in advance or accessed via computer.
Winfried Feneberg, superintendent for the Kearsarge school district in New Hampshire, was interviewed on New Hampshire Public Radio in December and touted the blizzard bag day option.
“I think in general we know that a day spent with a teacher is probably the best way to learn for students. But in a situation where we are facing having to call off the day because of our weather situation and deep snow, having the option to run a school day while it happens is very beneficial for us,” Feneberg said.
A pilot program in Illinois is underway enabling students to work from home when schools are closed, rather than making up the missing days in June or during spring break.
East Leydon High School in Franklin Park held its first “e-learning day” last month, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Students were required to complete at least five hours of classwork from home, using computers provided by the school district, according to the newspaper.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the pilot program into law in 2015.
Pennsylvania’s “flexible instructional days” pilot program allows students to work online from home, up to five days per school year, when snow or other weather emergencies result in buildings being closed.
However, the program will expire in June unless state lawmakers act to extend it, the York Daily Record reported.
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