End of snow days in Columbia?

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Pictured, snow falls outside of Columbia High School on one of the recent snow days, which may soon be a thing of the past. 

The Columbia School District may no longer have snow days after this year, depending on what Superintendent Chris Grode recommends after examining the issue in more detail. 

The Columbia School Board on Thursday tabled a vote on the school calendar for next year to give Grode more time to investigate replacing up to five emergency days with e-learning days. 

Illinois started allowing for those days before the pandemic, letting school districts teach students remotely instead of taking a day off for an emergency like winter weather. 

“I’ve got no issues with e-learning,” Grode told the board. “When the state brought it out as a possibility, I thought it was a great idea.” 

Despite the experience students and teachers have gained in remote learning during the pandemic, the district has not taken that step before, including last week. 

“This year we went with the traditional route of snow days. A lot of districts are going with remote learning so they don’t have to add a day. What we discussed is trading a day now for a full day later that’s in-person is a better move,” Grode explained before adding that may change as the district has almost used all five of its snow days. 

He said the benefit of having students learn from home on days when weather prevents them from physically attending school is that it allows the district to be certain of all the dates for its school year. 

“It’s basically a snow day but your kids can work from home,” Grode said. “What that would do is allow your calendar to be set and know ‘this would be the end of the year.’”

Grode said e-learning days would be similar to the remote learning students have become familiar with during the last year, but there would be some differences. 

For example, he said it would most likely be asynchronous, with students watching videos online rather than live lectures. 

“You don’t want an e-learning day to count as a day of instruction if all it is is a worksheet that goes out,” Grode stressed. 

The specifics of instruction would be determined in a process outlined by the state. 

That includes working with teachers to devise a methodology for how to provide e-learning and holding a public hearing about using e-learning days instead of snow days. 

Grode plans to make a recommendation to the board at its March meeting, but he so far seemed supportive of doing away with snow days. 

“Next year and the following years, I don’t see any problem with having up to five e-learning days,” Grode told the board.

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