Principal’s Corner: Snow days have changed
Published 9:55 pm Friday, January 25, 2019
Principal’s Corner by Chris Dibble
It seems as though winter has finally arrived in southern Minnesota. As the temperatures drop, snow falls and winds pick up, a beautiful blanket of white covers the fields and lakes. Amongst this beauty, students begin to dream of the legendary snow day. These unplanned days off have long been a highlight of attending school in the frigid north.
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I can recall waking up and listening to the morning radio personalities listing off the closed districts, waiting patiently to hear if my school was one of the lucky districts to get a day at home, never thinking about the potential make-up day at the end of the year. Many changes have occurred since those days, including automated phone calls, texts and tweets to immediately notify families of delays and cancellations. Another big change is the ability for teachers to instruct students using the internet.
Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, the state of Minnesota added statutes that allow school boards to include up to five e-learning days as part of the school calendar. An e-learning day requires students to receive instruction in an online format and are included in the required instructional hours. To insure academic integrity of the e-learning days, the state defines numerous requirements for participating districts.
First, teacher and district representatives must collaborate to create the e-learning plans. Second, accommodations must be allowed for students without home internet or accessible options for students with disabilities. The district is responsible for informing parents and students of the plan at the beginning of the year, and e-learning days must be called two hours prior to the start of the school day. Finally, teachers are required to be accessible to students both online and by phone during normal school hours to assist students and parents.
With all of these requirements met, Albert Lea Area Schools are a pioneer in e-learning. Students have learned to harness the powers of technology to learn in a variety of ways. Teachers are able to post relevant lessons for students to complete, even when the weather does not allow students to arrive to school safely. With the safety of students always the first concern, having an online option to deliver instruction balances student safety and academic progress.
Chris Dibble is the principal of Southwest Middle School.