Snow day or online classes? More schools faced with decision

Jason Bender and Breanna Bender, 8, sled IN the snow with their dog, Lucy, Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at Harbin Park in Fairfield. NICK GRAHAM  / STAFF
Jason Bender and Breanna Bender, 8, sled IN the snow with their dog, Lucy, Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at Harbin Park in Fairfield. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The first widespread snow day of the 2020-21 school year created a decision for local schools — now that they’re experienced with online learning, should kids just learn online, or should it be a traditional full day off?

Of the 12 Montgomery County school districts that currently have in-person learning, 11 told students and staff to take the day off, with only Oakwood declaring it a remote-learning day. Dayton, Trotwood, Northridge and Jefferson schools, which are still fully online, stuck with their online classes for the day.

ExplorePhotos: Several inches of snow blanket the Dayton region

The Fairborn and Troy school districts, where students would normally be in-person, both declared Tuesday an online learning day, leading to some spirited debate on their social media pages. Fairborn’s announcement drew more than 100 comments, touching on nearly every possible variable.

Many Fairborn residents were upset that kids didn’t get a normal snow day, calling those a joyful winter tradition. Others were glad there were still classes, saying kids are behind academically given all the disruption this year. Some said they were doing both, with sledding time after school.

Other families had logistical problems with classes, saying their kids’ computers were at school, or they weren’t clear on log-in times and schedules, or they had to work themselves and couldn’t help their young children with schoolwork.

After hearing some complaints about his decision, Troy Superintendent Chris Piper gave a detailed response, explaining that his district used its traditional “calamity days” at the beginning of the year for staff training on COVID safety and online education.

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“If we completely closed schools without remote learning during the winter when the weather got bad, we would fall below the number of state-mandated hours we teach students per year and would have to add on days to the end of the year,” Piper said. “We understand the awe and wonderment of traditional snow days, but we also have an obligation to both educate our students, while also keeping them safe.”

In Centerville, students and staff were given Tuesday off. But some parents were more concerned about Wednesday, which is a regularly scheduled online learning day, because their students’ computers had been left at school Monday. District officials were trying to offer ways for families to pick up those Chromebooks from their school.

Schools that did maintain online classes Tuesday took a variety of approaches. In Oakwood, it was fairly teacher-driven. District officials said lessons would be posted for each class via email or in Google Classroom by 10 a.m. “Teachers will communicate specific expectations for the day with students and families,” the schools said.

Dayton Public Schools told students to log in on their usual schedules Tuesday, and asked teachers and aides to teach from home rather than from their classrooms as they usually would. Teachers union President David Romick said teachers were prepared because of discussions in recent weeks about taking home computers and instructional materials if bad weather was expected.

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Miami East schools made Tuesday an “eDay” with students’ assignments posted to Google Classroom, while across the county at Milton-Union, Tuesday was their last free “calamity day.” Superintendent Brad Ritchey reminded families that Milton’s next call-off for snow or cold would be a remote-learning day, sending out detailed time schedules and procedures for connecting with teachers.

In Troy, some parents called for a true snow day, but others said the result might be adding hot June days onto the end of the year, in schools without air conditioning. Piper said there’s no way to make everyone happy. He said students have been taking their Chromebooks back and forth from home to school daily so they’re available, and teachers have been reminding them of snow day protocols.

“(Students’) safety will always be our first priority, but we also have to balance that with the need to educate them,” Piper said. “Unfortunately, the answer we arrive at when forced to make that choice seldom makes everyone happy.”

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