A former Ohio school superintendent entertained his colleagues at a seminar some years back by recalling his first week in his Colorado district. He’d overslept and woke to discover a raging snowstorm.
Frantic, he phoned the district’s transportation director: “We’ve got to call off school. My driveway is buried under 2 feet of snow.”
The director replied, “Best get shovelin’ then.”
Many communities accustomed to large snowfalls equip school buses with plows. Life goes on despite winter’s worst.
In central Ohio, where deep snows are about as rare as sunshine, district leaders are bracing for the white stuff and the inevitable complaints from kids and teachers if they don’t call off school, and from parents if they do.
And the debate goes on: This year, Ohio lawmakers scaled back the number of calamity days to three. But John Kasich, governor-elect, this week promised a return to five snow days after being persuaded by two determined lobbyists, his 10-yearold daughter and a chum.
“This has gotten more people stirred up,” Kasich observed.
Nothing frosts kids, parents and teachers as much as having to make up a snow day.
But Ohio is trying a few innovations to avoid having to pad the school calendar: all districts were told this year to schedule five additional “contingency days” to use if they exhaust their three calamity days.
Deborah Delisle, state superintendent, used her weekly newsletter twice this month to discuss the hot topic of snow days, which also are used for busted water pipes, hot weather, cold weather and flu outbreaks.
She suggested districts might extend the school day in half-hour blocks to make up time. Lawmakers approved that option last year.
But, for some districts, there might be a better plan: Turn snow days into surfing days.
About 700 students in the Mississinawa Valley Schools, a rural Darke County district, are participating in an Ohio Department of Education pilot program: the district, after using up calamity days, will hold classes online during bad weather.
Charter schools and colleges have offered online classes for years; they just didn’t count as snow days.
And universities increasingly are urging districts to acquaint students with online learning opportunities.
Officials at the Ohio Department of Education want to see how the Mississinawa Valley program works, but it’s an idea worth trying.
More than likely, online learning is superior to missing out on education for even one school day or extending the school day or year. Kids tune out. Teachers are weary.
Online learning is not without its problems: Students require access to computers. Parents of gradeschoolers still will need child care.
And many students rely on school meal programs, so when districts close, those kids might go hungry.
But lost in all the talk of limiting snow days or supplanting them with online learning is the demise of yet another wisp of nostalgia: oh, for the days when a child wakes up to the magic of a snow-blanketed world and hears the two most joyful words next to Santa Claus
– snow day.–Columbus