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School ‘snow days’ could become ‘E-Learning days’

What would students say if they were told there will be no snow days? It’s a conversation that could occur next year.

Under HF1421, sponsored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), school districts could provide up to five days of online instruction during inclement weather. The so-called “E-learning day” would count as a full day of student instruction.

Prior to implementation, both instruction plans and accommodations for students who lack internet access at home would be required. Parents would be notified of these plans at the beginning of each school year.

The House Education Innovation Policy Committee laid the bill over Thursday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. Its companion, SF1241, sponsored by Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Policy Committee.

Angela Heitman, a parent and teacher from Zumbrota-Mazeppa Schools, testifies on HF1421, sponsored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, which would authorize school boards to adopt snow day policies and e-learning days during inclement weather. Photo by Paul Battaglia

“It’s a bill that encourages innovation,” Drazkowski said. “It keeps teachers teaching, and students learning.”

“You’re proving the ingeniousness of teachers; there’s always a creative idea to teach new content so children can continue to learn,” said Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), who chairs the committee.

WATCH The House Education Innovation Policy Committee discusses the bill 

The idea is a departure from the long-held norm of a “free day” for students when snow begins to fly or temperatures drop well below zero.

Adopted by Zumbrota-Mazeppa Schools in the fall of 2015, the switch has been a beneficial one according to high school principal Dave Anderson.

“The concept of the snow day being a free day isn’t going on anymore,” he said. The district now has Weather Induced Learning Days, or WILD days. “It’s been very positive from an administrative standpoint, and for our parents.”

With E-learning days being dependent on an internet connection, Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL-New Brighton) asked what districts would do if students did not have a reliable source. Attendance would also be counted electronically.

“Teachers have been more than accommodating to students who don’t have access,” Anderson said. “Our teachers are tremendously flexible; they’re very gracious about making sure students have ample time to complete a task.” 

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