Snow day or remote learning? School districts wrestle with the call

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ST. LOUIS — The age-old tradition of snow days, eagerly anticipated by students for generations, is undergoing a significant transformation. Schools across the United States are grappling with the decision to either uphold this winter ritual or replace it with virtual learning.

In the St. Louis area, several school districts are experimenting with a hybrid model, mixing virtual learning with traditional snow days. This approach reflects a growing trend towards flexible education systems capable of adapting to unexpected disruptions while addressing pandemic-related learning gaps.

St. Louis area school closings

However, the transition isn’t without its challenges and nuances. For example, the criteria for school closures due to extreme cold vary significantly among districts. Decisions are often based on factors like wind chill warnings and the specific needs of the district’s student population, particularly those in rural areas or dependent on bus transportation.

The Francis Howell School District spoke to FOX 2 in 2019 about how cold it needs to be to cancel classes. This was before the pandemic and the shift to increased remote learning. They said that the district does not follow a fixed temperature threshold for cancelling classes due to cold weather. Instead, the superintendent makes the final call, prioritizing student safety. The district has guidelines for conducting school during cold conditions: outdoor activities are restricted once temperatures fall below freezing, and all activities are moved indoors if temperatures or wind chill drop below 15 degrees.

In contrast, the Edwardsville Community Unit 7 District pays particular attention to wind chills, especially when they reach 15 to 20 degrees below zero. A key consideration for Edwardsville is that about two-thirds of its 7,600 students depend on bus transportation, and many live in rural areas, making weather-related decisions especially critical.

The shift towards virtual learning on snow days is part of a broader rethinking of education, one that recognizes the potential for learning outside the traditional school day. Yet, this change also highlights the importance of equitable access to technology, an issue that remains a significant concern.

Dangerous cold to continue through Wednesday morning

Despite the practical benefits of remote learning during snow days, there’s a sense of nostalgia and loss among students and parents alike. Snow days have long been a cherished break from routine, offering spontaneous joy and outdoor play.

As schools continue to navigate these uncharted waters, one thing is clear: the future of snow days will likely be a blend of the old and the new, reflecting our evolving relationship with education and technology.


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