The public school board announced it plans to close schools on snow days, the latest adaptation it’s had to make in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a typical snow day pre-pandemic, the majority of students would stay home but schools would remain open for the few students who chose – or needed – to still attend school.
“The smaller attendance numbers and staff absences due to road conditions usually meant classes were often blended together to continue learning activities while maximizing supervision,” Stephen Sliwa, education director at the Upper Canada District School Board, said in a letter to parents this week.
Now, given the presence of COVID-19, Sliwa says blending classrooms is no longer possible, and it has to do with making sure students aren’t co-mingling with anybody who is not in their bubble.
“Due to the COVID-19 protocols in our schools, this blended-class practice cannot happen this year with our requirement to maintain existing cohorts. As well, we can’t guarantee proper supervision for each cohort as road conditions may not permit all staff to travel to their schools.”
As a result, snow days will now be designated as remote learning days, he said, and students will be provided material to learn from home on these days. But the material won’t be new; students will simply be given “review activities” to work on, he said.
“This decision comes after considering student and staff safety during the pandemic, while ensuring there is a continuation of learning on snow days/inclement weather days this season,” Sliwa added.
“The safety of our students and staff remains a top priority with the (school board).”
Sliwa added that staff is still working on the details, and more information will come from each child’s teacher or school in the near future. For now, he said parents can expect the review activities will be made available to students on remote learning days either on the online learning portal or by way of printed materials.
The primary means of providing school work for snow days will be through the classroom’s digital platform in a “clearly marked inclement weather section or folder,” said school board spokeswoman April Scott-Clarke.
If a student doesn’t have sufficient internet at home and needs printed materials, each teacher will provide that to students ahead of time – either on a weekly basis once winter comes around or the day before a snow day is likely to happen.
“This level of detail is up to the teacher’s discretion as they know their class best,” said Scott-Clarke.
As for attendance, students will not be marked absent on snow days – the same way it has always been.
“So if students log in to do work or do printed worksheets, or chose not to participate in the remote learning day, attendance is recorded the same,” Scott-Clarke added.
Sliwa said the child-care centres in schools are independently operated and “are not linked to decisions related to student transportation for the school board.”
“Families are encouraged to contact their child-care provider to confirm if they are open on an inclement weather day,” said Sliwa.