Goodbye, snow days? Schools trying online learning instead

Sorry kids, no more all-day pajama parties, cartoon marathons and snowball fights when you're really supposed to be in school.

A school district in South Carolina has done away with the much-loved snow days - requiring students to do classwork online.

Officials with Anderson County School District 5 announced last week on social media that the district has been chosen to "pilot the first eLearning program in the state of South Carolina," meaning that when roads are too treacherous for travel, teachers will send assignments to the students' school-supplied tablets. The district calendar states that "inclement weather days will be eLearning days and will not be made up."

The simple fact is, though, that South Carolina has very little snowfall each year.

"It just makes good sense," Anderson School District 5 Superintendent Tom Wilson said Monday in a phone interview with The Washington Post, explaining that on average, a small percentage of students attend the makeup days that are tacked onto the end of the school year, so the district has eliminated them. "Quite honestly, it's a waste of money, so we think this is the way to go in the future."

The superintendent said the school district invested $11 million in Chromebooks over the past several years, providing tablets to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, "so we think we're in a position to make it work."

Following last week's announcement, parents asked whether the students needed internet access to complete their assignments and how younger students in grades Kindergarten through second grade - who are not permitted to take their tablets home - will be able to do the classwork. Officials with the school district responded on Facebook, saying internet will not be required - instead, the students can "download assignments to their Chromebooks ahead of time to ensure access in the case of Wi-Fi outage."

Still, Wilson, the superintendent, said school district officials are working to determine how many children lack internet access at home and how many younger children may have trouble accessing online assignments. He said younger children may be given assignments, such as reading, that to do not require tablets.

Wilson said he understands that there are always "outliers" and the students who are unable to complete their assignments at home will be given five days to make them up once they return to school.

But, the superintendent said that "we're confident that the vast majority of the students will be able to do their work from home."

When asked whether he had received any pushback from parents - or outraged children - he said the response had been mostly positive, but he added that he expects more questions when the students return to school next month.

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