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Editorial: Are ‘snow days,’ weather cancellations history?

It’s worth wondering whether snow days and other weather-related cancellations are a thing of the past.

Last week, when the remnants of Hurricane Zeta brought gusty winds, rain and power outages, Rowan-Salisbury Schools moved to a “virtual day” instead of calling off classes entirely. When outages persisted Friday, there was another virtual day. True, some students probably chose not to do work, but the announcements along with pre-existing practices will make canceled classes and makeup days more rare.

Don’t believe us? How about Superintendent Lynn Moody?

“I think virtual learning on bad weather days will be always practiced in the future,” Moody said in response to a Post question. “I think it has definitely changed how we think about ‘making up snow days.’ ”

Proof of that comes via the fact that Rowan-Salisbury Schools had already embraced technology through its one-to-one technology initiative and that it had experimented with virtual learning days before the COVID-19 pandemic upended methods of learning in public schools. While many students left school in March and didn’t think about learning again until August, Rowan-Salisbury Schools quickly pivoted. And it did so about as fast as anyone could hope for a district of its size, which is to also say that it pivoted faster than most public school districts.

So, when an inch of 2 of snow forces other districts to cancel classes, parents shouldn’t be surprised when a Rowan-Salisbury Schools announcement looks a lot like the one that came last week and when assignments are still due on their originally planned dates.

“Due to the predictions of inclement weather moving into our area, all students will have a remote learning day at home,” the announcement will state.

Opting for remote days for the foreseeable future would be a net positive, with students able to continue ongoing lessons. But there would be challenges — namely that technical problems will crop up, that some students don’t have the support and supervision at home to ensure they keep learning and that online learning isn’t a good solution for everyone. All three, though, are challenges that can be solved; they also are issues with which educators are contending right now.

Local public schools can make virtual days instead of canceled classes permanent by continuing their pre-existing one-to-one device commitment and looking for ways to provide resources such as internet access to students who need them. Teachers will also need continued support and advice to craft engaging lessons for students to complete on their own or in a teleconference format.

Students will be disappointed, but Rowan-Salisbury Schools Public Information Officer Rita Foil’s weather-related calls may bring news about remote learning days for the foreseeable future.

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