Editorial: Take a look at how e-Learning days are spent

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019

We, like most others, are tired of the snow, the wind and the cold our area has endured during the last month as we deal with what seems to be back-to-back winter storms on top of dangerous temperatures that have led to the closing of school for several days.

So far, Albert Lea schools have closed for eight days due to weather, and there have been additional days with delays. Five of those canceled days are excused as eLearning or flexible learning days and are given a pass under state guidelines. The remaining three days count against the district’s overall instructional days.

In Minnesota, students in first through 11th grades are required to complete 165 days of school each year.

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The Albert Lea district started out with 173 instructional days for secondary students and 172 for elementary students. With the three days that were not excused, students are left with 170 and 169 days, still within the state guidelines.

While we agree with most of the days the school district decided to close school — particularly for the more rural students — we have questions about the structure of the eLearning days and the future of this option for students.

These flexible learning days vary widely depending on age, and for the older students often vary widely by teacher.

The elementary students have to complete a series of tasks on a bingo card — tasks such as reading to a stuffed animal or pet, playing outside in the snow, doing a chore in your house, giving someone a compliment or even dancing for 15 minutes. Some of these items require minimal thought, while others require a little more activity — but is completing five of them worth a whole day of school credit?

The older students have various assignments from their teachers, and some teachers are stricter than others on what types of assignments they give and the difficulty of the tasks they want their students to complete.

Some assignments seem too easy, while others seem too hard.

The hardest part for parents is that every teacher is different. Some teachers put forth a lot of effort to make the assignments a learning experience on current curriculum, while others don’t. Some don’t count eLearning assignments in the total grade — they just count if they were turned in or not.

It is also difficult for many parents to help their child complete the assignments when many still have to go to work on snow days. For example, music and physical education classes sometimes have to write reports instead of singing or exercising like they would normally do in class.

Is there a way to give more guidelines to teachers to maintain more consistency for how these eLearning days operate?

We encourage the district to review internally the success of this year’s eLearning days and make improvements for future years.