New Emergency-Closure Guidelines could Spell the End of ‘Snow Days’
Add this to the flurry of ways the pandemic has changed education: a path to more easily weathering “snow days.”
In line with efforts this year to keep students safe and learning, the Canyons Board of Education has chosen to take advantage of an option allowed by the Utah State Board of Education to treat “snow days” as remote-learning days. The new guidelines are in effect for the 2020-2021 school year to be reviewed by the Board and Administration for possible continued adoption.
“This won’t change how we gauge the severity of weather and road conditions,” says Canyons School Performance Director Alice Peck. “It just means that if conditions warrant closing schools, we’ll be able to preserve the day of instruction by pivoting to remote learning. Teachers will be working from home and students will be engaged in independent or online learning.”
While some of us look forward to snow days as a free day for hitting the slopes, sledding, or relaxing on the couch, under Utah law these missed days of instruction have to be made up later in the year, often on a holiday or by adding an extra day to end of the school year.
Moving to online learning, instead of dismissing classes, benefits students by maintaining continuity of instruction. “Make-up days tend to have high rates of absenteeism,” Peck says. It also benefits families by alleviating the need to adjust their schedules to accommodate make-up days, which can disrupt vacation and holiday plans.
The remote-learning option is made possible because of the groundwork laid this year as we’ve prepared for and become accustomed to pivoting to remote learning. “All of our middle and high school students are now equipped with computing devices and WiFi,” Peck says, “and our elementary schools have created systems for providing students with advance notice of weekly learning expectations so they can work independently with the support of a parent or guardian at home.”
Fortunately, snow days are rare in Utah. More often, Canyons will choose to delay the start of school in order to provide cities with more time to clear sidewalks and streets. But having the option to switch to remote learning could also apply to other disruptions, from earthquakes to power outages.
How will Canyons decide if conditions call for pivoting to remote instruction, and how will families be notified?
How we decide: School closures are announced when authorized by the Canyons Superintendent of Schools or his designee after consulting with senior staff members and the Transportation Department, which has drivers out on inclement days as early as 4 a.m. to survey road conditions. The National Weather Service and other state, county and city agencies also may be consulted.
How we communicate: Canyons District will notify families and employees of emergency remote-learning days as early as possible through our Skyward notification system. We also will employ our websites, and Facebook and Twitter (@canyonsdistrict) accounts. Parents and employees also should tune into Wasatch Front radio and television stations for information.
Closures are for one day only: All announcements are for one day only. No announcement means schools will be open and operating as usual. Unless extreme weather creates unsafe traveling conditions, schools operating under the Canyons District umbrella will remain open for in-person instruction on scheduled school days.
How can students and parents prepare for emergency remote-learning days?
- If inclement weather is in the forecast, teachers will work with students to make sure they have the materials and assignments they need to learn from home.
- Elementary students will work independently with a parent or guardian to complete the assignments and learning expectations communicated each week by their teacher using instructional packets or by logging in to CSD’s Canvas learning portal.
- Middle and high school students will log in to the Canvas dashboard for each of their classes and work their way through their regular course schedules.
- Teachers will be available on remote-learning days via email and connect with students through Canvas and Zoom or Google Meet.
- Extracurricular activities — sporting events and practices, afterschool tutoring and theatrical rehearsals and performances — will be canceled unless road conditions improve enough to be able to safely hold the activity.
- It’s important, each year, for families to log in to Skyward Family Access to update their contact information and settings. New this year: Parents can sign up to receive text messages in addition to emails and phone calls. For help updating Skyward settings, please call 801-826-5544.
What happens if there are power and Internet outages? If you lose power or Internet access at home, contact your teacher or school to report the outage and continue to work on previously assigned learning activities.