Learning on snow days? Schools shift to virtual instruction instead of canceling school

NOW: Learning on snow days? Schools shift to virtual instruction instead of canceling school

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school districts across southeastern Wisconsin to expand their technological horizons. Despite the snow, Tuesday, Jan. 26, was no exception.

A number of schools pivoted to virtual learning Tuesday instead of canceling school altogether. Parents, students and educators alike may be asking if this means an end to traditional snow days?

The heavy snowfall led Milwaukee Public Schools to close all buildings except the district offices and to cancel day programs. Virtual learning continued.

"I think it gives us the possibilities of seeing that we can continue learning even on snow days and whether we're going to do that continuously in the future is to be seen, but we certainly see that possibility with what's going on this year," said Earl Arms, media relations manager for Milwaukee Public Schools.

Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, said weather is a barrier for many workers still required to be inside buildings.

"In terms of virtual instruction on snow days or inclement weather cold days, it's a topic for future discussion with administration," Mizialko said.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has issued to guidance to schools on this topic, saying that schools can use virtual learning time for "snow or other inclement weather."

Schools in the School District of Cudahy usually follow hybrid models but pivoted to virtual instruction Tuesday due to the weather. Superintendent Tina Owen-Moore said "it was the move we needed to make" due to upcoming AP tests and the need for more instructional time.

"When we're not in this COVID context, I don't know if it'll be as easy to pivot like that because the learning lessons in the space won't always be ready for it," she said.

Owen-Moore said she has had parents contact her wondering about the future of snow days.

"No matter what we do, it'd be great to find a way to keep that combination of the joy of the snow day, and the continuity and the instructional time and all those things that we need to do learning well," she said.

Dr. Bryan Davis, superintendent of the Shorewood School District, told CBS 58 in a statement: "Monday marked the first in-person learning day of the school year for our elementary school students in Shorewood. Though our campuses are closed today due to inclement weather, school remains in session and all students will participate in a virtual learning day. We will assess how today goes, but I believe we may be at a place where we can weatherproof our learning system. Video technology such as Zoom and Google Meets, accompanied with online learning tools including Google Classroom and SeeSaw will help our teachers continue their lessons, with or without inches of snow on the ground. Utilizing these virtual learning days will also help reduce make-up days at the end of the school year, which I believe is a silver lining for our students and staff."

Sarah Frittitta, communications coordinator for the Wauwatosa School District, told CBS 58 in a statement: "Given our ability to conduct meaningful virtual education, we do not plan to cancel school due to weather this winter. Instead, in cases where inclement weather would typically force our schools to close, it is our intention to shift scheduled in-person learning to synchronous online learning. This means that students who would normally learn in-person would follow their normal schedule, but will conduct their learning online instead."

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