How Should Schools Make Up for Snow Days?

snow days, winter 2014This winter, Kingston has endured a seemingly endless supply of snow, ice and undesirable conditions, which have resulted in power outages, delayed commutes and beloved snow days.  Since last December, local elementary and secondary school students have lost as many as 5 days in the classroom due to inclement weather, which has renewed debate regarding what school boards should be doing to make up for lost time.  Of course there’s no shortage of ideas floating around out regarding how the deficit should be addressed in communities across Canada and the United States.

Kingston isn’t the only city with a case of the winter blues, as this season has been just as unforgiving to our neighbours south of the border.  For instance, school boards as far away as Indiana and Kentuky have had to cancel upwards of 21 school days in 2014 due to unseasonably cold, wintry conditions.  In order to help recover some of those lost days, officials at the Perry County School Board made the unpopular decision to cancel March Break. Other boards have converted previously scheduled PA and PD days into regular school days, as well as added days to the end of the semester.  One district is even considering extending each school day by one hour in order to make up for lost time and meet legislated requirements for the total number of instructional hours in an academic year.  I can only imagine the catastrophic impact this would have on a student’s after hour activities, and part-time jobs.

Back home, our neighbours in Nova Scotia are considering adopting more high tech solutions to ensure that students aren’t at a disadvantage due to the impact of snow days.  Since approximately 90 percent of that province’s students have some form of Internet access, one expert is advocating for the integration of e-learning to help students make up lessons.  In the age of broadband and 4G, tablets and laptops, e-learning sounds like a perfect way to offset the odd snow day, but what about the kids who don’t have the required equipment or access.  And what about households with more kids than gadgets with an Internet connection?

Growing up, snow days were an undeniable gift.  While I don’t think that school boards should be making up for every snow day, I do think strategies should be considered for the years where Kingston is walloped by winter.  Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:

[poll id=”200″]

What is your take on how school boards should be addressing snow days.  Is it time for classrooms to shift online when required, or should schedules be amended to make up for lost time?  Eyes on your own paper, pencils up, comments below.

Thanks to Christopher Howitt for today’s photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

4 thoughts on “How Should Schools Make Up for Snow Days?

  • I think converting PD Days is the only fair way to deal with this seeing as most snow days were just bus cancellations, so teachers were still required to go to work. Teachers already have to work on PD Days so it makes sense. Extending the school day is a bad idea for the reasons mentioned here. Lots of kids have places to be after school, as do their teachers. Cancelling March Break or extending the school year would certainly be met with lots of angry parents who have already planned activities, booked vacations and taken the time off work.

    A better solution, at least in Kingston, would be to stop cancelling school at the drop of a hat. Some of this year’s snow days were completely unnecessary.

    • I disagree with converting PD days. PD days are just that– professional development, and they are important if we want teachers to become better. I don't think we need to worry about snow days. But if you are worried about them, we could look at elearning and putting stuff on line for students to do. I also like Chrystal's suggestion about walking/biking to school.

  • Well if they really cared about it, there could have been less Olympics watching in my kids' classes… I am estimating that they "lost" about two full instructional days due to watching opening ceremonies and various hockey and curling games.

  • As another option…. if we have walkable community schools, bus cancellations would not affect days in class. My kids walk / bike to school, on the 'snow days' and recent 'rain day' no programming was offered, and in my son's case, teacher's didn't bother opening classrooms or taking attendance. If the teachers still had to be at work, what were they doing? Reduced student populations for bus cancellations should be seen as an opportunity to offer enriched cross grade programming. Have the students who do walk work on a project together. Watch the Olympics for part of the day and then hold a mini Olympics… do something.

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