Could Cyber Snow Days Be the Future

Adam Steiner, Reporter

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As technology is integrated into schools, there is a new idea that is changing the game for many school districts across the nation: cyber snow days.

The premise behind cyber snow days is that as we move into a digital age, more and more school work is completed online. Since most students have internet access at home, the work can still be completed–even on a snow day.

Cyber snow days originated in the more southern states where they often don’t have snow days built into the calendar, so when snow does arrive, it is automatically tacked on to the end of the school year.

Keeping students and staff from having to extend their school year is the number one reason most people and districts support cyber snow days. There is no concern about pushing graduation or changing summer plans.

Additionally, some parents might find the idea of a cyber snow day beneficial, because more schools could air on the side of caution and cancel school without having to implement delays or early dismissals. These can be challenging for parents and guardians who would have to arrange for transportation or change their schedules.

The structure of a cyber snow day might look different from district to district, but the intention is to teach students from a distance using digital platforms–much like cyber classes that already exist.

“Teachers try to stay away from rolling out new material on these days and teens can communicate with instructors by phone or online,” an article on U.S. News Report stated.

The article continues on to state that teachers often prepare the material for the potential snow day a few days ahead of time, so that they can go over it with their students and make sure that the instructions are entirely clear.

As it is usually possible to predict a snow day, teachers can offer the work digitally or hand out paper versions before hand to students who might not have access to technology.

It is also expected that teachers remain accessible throughout the day to help students with any questions that they may have on the work they have been assigned.

At Kennard-Dale this could include the use of the Remind App, Google Classroom, and the school email accounts.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education had been working with a few districts in the state to create a program that can be rolled out state-wide to all school districts in order to facilitate cyber snow days.

However, that pilot program expired at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. However, Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill has proposed new legislation to bring the cyber snow day to all school districts in Pennsylvania should they choose to participate.

The legislation would allow districts to use what is called “flexible instructional days”, which means that districts can opt to have students do work at home instead of coming into school. This would allow the school calendar to remain set throughout the year.

It is widely believed that the legislation will be passed and then signed into law, and then it would be up to individual school districts as to whether or not they would like to participate in cyber snow days.

Many students are already equipped with the technology that is needed in order to make a cyber snow day happen, so it is now only a matter of time and legislation before they are implemented.

Interestingly, York county is a forerunner in schools already utilizing cyber snow days. According to the York Daily Record, districts in York make up 33 % of schools within Pennsylvania that allow students flexible instructional days.

Specifically, the four schools within York offering these alternative days include: Southern York, Dallastown, Red Lion, and Central York, according to the State Department of Education (as quoted in the York Daily Record).

Overall, students seem to like the idea of schools utilizing this option.

“I think they would be awesome. Well, it would benefit the seniors so they can still get their work done, and their graduation won’t get pushed back. It’s beneficial to everyone, so instead of making up days you just do it online,” said senior Elizabeth Pistoria.

Teachers, too, like the idea, not only in regard to make-up days but with a focus on retention.

“I found that the day following two snow days was spent reviewing old information, rather than moving on. Having those cyber days could avoid that. It would keep information fresh,” said choral director Samantha Baldwin.

While most teachers like the idea, they have concerns about how it would actually function in our district.

Sophomore English teacher Rachel Appleby said, “I’m concerned as to how they might practically function in our district. With many students/families without reliable internet access, it may be difficult for a significant portion of the student body to get the work they need to complete.”

Baldwin echoes a concern with regard to classes where it’s not easy to assign work at home, such as choir.

There are ways around some of the issues of technology, and Appleby had some constructive ideas.

“There could also be policies in place that mandate that all students have up to two days after a snow day to turn in ‘snow day’ work, which may also help students without internet or students who may perhaps have had power outages on snow days,” she said.