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MN might let schools turn snow days into learn-from-home days

Even if kids can't get to school, they might still have to do schoolwork.

"Gee, Grandma, you didn't even have to log onto your class web page? ... You just stayed home and played in the snow?"

Snow days might seem like a strange concept to future generations of Minnesotans.

Already, some schools are realizing that even if a snowstorm keeps kids from getting to school, that doesn't have to mean there is no school. The learning day can just migrate to the web.

The Legislature is considering bills that would formalize this idea, giving schools the freedom to replace snow days with "e-learning days."

Why in the world would they do such a thing?

As fun as snow days are, there is a downside. Those no-school days have to be made up later, which usually means adding days to the end of end of the school year or maybe shortening spring break. Not fun.

Thursday a House committee heard from a principal and teacher at a southeastern Minnesota district that has replaced most snow days with something they call WILD days: Weather Induced Learning Days.

Principal Dave Anderson says the Zumbrota-Mazeppa district just had one of those days last week. As Session Daily reports, Anderson told the House Education Innovation Policy Committee the kids all took their Chromebooks home and teachers assigned them lessons they could do at home on their laptops.

“The concept of the snow day being a free day isn’t going on anymore,” Anderson said.

Teacher Angela Heitman acknowledged some things can't be done online – a biology lab, for example – but said most teachers have some supplemental assignment up their sleeve that they haven't had time to get to in the classroom.

You can see their whole presentation here:

What's the Legislature considering?

The House bill introduced by Republican Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa would not force schools to do anything, just give them the option of having e-learning days.

Schools that do it would have to let families know at least two hours before the start of the school day that they would be studying from home. The lessons would start at the normal time and teachers would have to stay logged on – or at least available by phone – all day.

While many schools provide students with laptops, one of the questions raised in the hearing was about families that don't have internet access at home.

The panel did not vote on the proposal Thursday, but set it aside for possible inclusion in the big education bill they'll come up with at the end of the session.

The Senate has a similar bill authored by a DFLer, Greg Clausen of Apple Valley.

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