Saturday, June 6, 2020
US flag

3 IL districts will pilot e-learning for snow days

Three suburban Illinois districts plan to allow students to do school work at home on snow days or other emergency days, the Daily Herald reports.

A three-year pilot of the e-learning days will begin this school year, and participation in each year moving forward depends on the success of the program in the previous year, as determined by the Illinois State Board of Education. Pilots will begin January 4 in the following districts:

“It’s really an extension of the regular learning that would be happening in class on those days,” the Daily Herald quoted District 94 Superintendent Douglas Domeracki as saying. “It’s about helping to define a new way that we can continue instruction outside of the school day.”

District 94, a one-high school district just west of Chicago, issued Chromebooks to all of its 2,055 student this school year and plans to use Google Classroom to deliver instruction to students, Mr Domeracki said. But, “at the end of the day, we know that technology is a moving target. Nobody really knows what’s going to be available three years from now.”

During “freak” snowstorms that come out of nowhere, he said, there won’t be an e-learning day, but if the schools know for a fact that a day will be a snow day because of advance weather forecasts, and teachers have time to prepare online-ready learning activities, the district will use the day as an e-learning day.

Nearby states use programs like this regularly, including Delphi Community High School in West Lafayette, Indiana. The e-learning initiative there gets mixed reviews from students.

Students are said to be “so plugged in outside of school that e-learning doesn’t feel that different,” NPR reports. But they say it doesn’t work for every class.

“It’s really tough in, like, a math class—for the high-level math classes, because some of that stuff you can’t just learn by yourself. You have to have the teacher there. You have to be in the classroom,” NPR quoted Isaac Miller, a student at Delphi, as saying back in February.

Required access to computers and Internet?

Some schools across the country—about two-thirds of the 14,000 or so school districts in the country offered a blended learning option in 2012—give students who don’t have access to computers or whose Internet connections may fail because of the snow additional time to make up any assignments given during the e-learning days, District Administration Magazine reports.

In Ohio, districts that exhaust their five annual “calamity” days can use up to three “e-learning days” during which students read through lessons and complete assignments at home. This way, districts can meet state class-time requirements without adding days to the end of the year or moving graduation dates, the magazine quoted John Charlton, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education, as saying.

Ohio passed its e-learning law in 2011, but Illinois’s is just being piloted now. The law requires that five hours of instructional activity has to occur on any given day in order for it not to count against the school’s annual allotment of snow days.

The rapid growth of technology in schools has led to a fast increase in the number of schools that use e-learning days if they have them available. Perhaps during out-of-the-blue blizzards, where kids often sled down hills and build forts out of snow piles, e-learning isn’t so useful. But in Ohio, the number of districts, out of 614 eligible districts in the state, that submitted plans to use e-learning days jumped to 246 in 2014 from only 95 the previous year.

Ohio also allows a low-tech modification for using snow days without counting the days against the five allowed each year: blizzard bags.

These are printed copies of lessons or assignments that students who don’t have Internet access can take home. Teachers prepare these copies as they post the lessons online and hand the blizzard bags out on certain dates or just before anticipated school closings.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Voxitatis congratulates the COVID Class of 2020

2020 is unique and, for high school graduates, different from anything they've seen. Proms, spring sports, & many graduation ceremonies are cancelled. Time for something new.

Vertical addition (m3.nbt.2) math practice

3rd grade, numbers and operations in base 10, 2, 3-digit vertical addition practice problem

Rubber ducks (m3.oa.1) math practice

3rd grade, operational and algebraic thinking, 1, rubber ducky modeling practice problem

Distance learning begins as Covid-19 thrives

What we learn during & from coronavirus, a challenging & imminent crisis, will provide insights into so many aspects of our lives.

Calif. h.s. choir sings with social distancing

Performances with the assistance of technology can spread inspiration across the globe even as the coronavirus spreads illness and disease.

Families plan to stay healthy during closures

Although schools are doing what they can to keep students learning and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, that duty now shifts to parents.

Illinois temporarily closes all schools

IL schools will be closed on Tuesday, March 17, through at least March 30. Schools in 18 states are now closed due to coronavirus.

Coronavirus closures & cancellations

Many schools are closed and sports tournaments cancelled across America during what the president called a national emergency: coronavirus.

Coronavirus closes schools in Seattle

The coronavirus pandemic has caused colleges to cancel classes, and now Seattle Public Schools became the nation's first large district to cancel classes due to the virus.

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.