Internet access a barrier in shift from snow days to e-learning | Education

QUINCY — Quincy Public Schools has a key component to utilize e-learning days but hasn’t made the shift away from traditional snow days.

“We are logistically prepared to do that, meaning that I have a computer for every child and all of our teachers have laptops they can take home,” Superintendent Roy Webb said.

But Webb said there’s other barriers to access learning at home during inclement weather.

“Some of our children and families do not have a hot spot or internet access at home. That’s a concern we would have to overcome before we would make that jump,” he said. “We would have to figure out a way to get them access so they can have the same opportunities as the rest of our students.”

That’s an issue in every school district, said Carthage Elementary Superintendent Dustin Day who used two e-learning days and a traditional snow day during last week’s storm.

“You have to make sure all students at home have technology and the capabilities to follow through with an e-learning day. In rural communities we sometimes forget about that,” Day said.

Carthage staff started preparing students for the possibility early in the week, making sure everyone had technology and lessons prepared. With the dire-sounding weather forecast, “having that time to put your plan in place makes an e-learning day much easier, especially in an elementary district,” Day said.

“The theory behind it is there’s no break in education with an e-learning day,” he said. “With that said, there’s some argument to have a good old-fashioned snow day. I see both sides of the argument.”

The state allows districts to use up to five e-learning days. They’re a good option, but “there’s a reason why we have school, why kids are in the classroom with each other and a teacher,” Day said. “Out of COVID, we’ve learned in-person instruction is still far superior to being at home. I think we can all agree on that.”

Beyond the technology needs, Webb said there’s a lot of other variables in determining how beneficial e-learning days can be for students.

Shifting to an e-learning day might require putting together new assignments in some classes while in others “what we’re doing doesn’t match up with remote learning like a welding class or a hands-on science experiment,” Webb said. “It’s something we have to think through.”

QPS also doesn’t face many of the longer-term weather disruptions that challenge rural districts.

“Our city and our internal QPS crews do a great job of getting us ready to go even within a day or two of a major storm with blowing, drifting and cold. I’m not sure there are too many years we would have a lot of snow days to where it’s a big difference,” Webb said.

“I don’t like to call off school, but it’s probably not too bad a deal every once in a while when the whole city is shut down anyway.”


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