Virtual day or snow day? Wisconsin school leaders discuss plans for cold weather learning

Virtual day or snow day? Wisconsin school leaders discuss plans for cold weather learning
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 10:26 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Are snow days a thing of the past? Since the pandemic and the rise of virtual learning, school district leaders all over the nation are discussing what to do when bad weather hits.

“I know those are the nights our families are watching the weather. We hear stories from families that children get up earlier than they normally do because they’re excited about school being called off,” says Deforest Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Toetz.

Instead of canceling class and having a snow day, schools can now opt for virtual learning days. So does that mean snow days are off the table? In south central Wisconsin, that’s not the case.

“Every snow day there are all kinds of conversations that happen,” says Madison Metropolitan School District Spokesperson Tim LeMonds.

LeMonds says snow days will be used first in the Madison school district before the possibility of going virtual.

“When we’re looking at a situation where we would be extending the year to make up for snow days if we go over that allotment, we would then be considering that virtual option,” says LeMonds.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, students first through sixth grade have to complete 1,050 hours of learning every year. Grades 7-12 have to complete 1,137. Taking an unplanned snow day could mean tacking on more school time come summer.

LeMonds says MMSD has three days of wiggle room. They’ll use three snow days first and then consider the virtual option.

Other districts are following the same plan. Those include Pardeeville, Mount Horeb and Mineral Point.

“Mineral Point has a few snow days built into the calendar. If there is a need to use a snow day, we will allow students and staff to have that day off. In the event that there are too many snow days, we would switch to virtual learning days to prevent having to “make up” days at the end of the year,” says Mineral Point District Administrator Mitch Mainwright.

“With our school district, we’re looking at things like is going to a virtual option an equitable way to go about it? We’re looking at does every student have the resources to get online?” says LeMonds.

Over in DeForest Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Toetz has a slightly different game plan, trying to go virtual as much as possible instead of canceling class.

“It’s the part of the job I’m least looking forward to, canceling school. I’m a big fan of keeping school going. The strategy would be as long as we know ahead of time that school really should be canceled, it would be to use the virtual option so people are prepared and not at risk of making up minutes,” explains Toetz.

And while Dr. Toetz hopes to minimize the number of snow days taken, she says midwestern winter fun will be sprinkled in when it can be.

“They might be writing about snow, they might be doing an activity in the snow and then draw about it. There is nostalgia and a lot of joy with a snow day, and we don’t want that to go away,” says Toetz.

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