A Minnesota tradition could be replaced with distance-learning days
Snow days have long been an iconic piece of Minnesota winters. However, the growing amount of technology available for distance learning may soon change this. Due to Covid-19, Minnehaha Academy is set up for distance learning, which could replace a snow day with a live virtual school day. Usually students are able to sleep in, play in the snow, bake something, help shovel, and enjoy a day off due to a snow storm, but this could be a relic of the past.
In previous years, Minnehaha teachers have assigned small amounts of work for students to complete on snow days. However, even when some work was assigned, it was small enough so that the day was almost entirely free, which allowed students a spontaneous day off.
Even though Minnehaha Academy is online for some of the winter, it does not necessarily mean snow days will disappear. If Minnehaha is online, and there is enough precipitation to traditionally require a snow day, then there is still hope for a snow day.
“While I can’t promise [a snow day], I am not opposed to that being the case,” high school principal Dr. Mike DiNardo said.
However, Dr. DiNardo is only one of many voices in this decision, so there is no guarantee for a snow day while on distance learning. In addition, teachers are allowed to teach from their own classroom even during distance learning, so a large amount of snow would make teachers’ commutes very difficult.
Plans will look different if in person learning is in effect. Even though Minnehaha does have the tools for distance learning, there may still be snow days while in person.
“Since we don’t have a firm plan [for snow days] I would probably say that we will lean towards it being a more asynchronous day with the snow day, at least for the first one, and then we’ll see how the semester continues with everything,” upper school academic dean Libby Burton said.
If this plan does take effect, Minnehaha may utilize distance learning for some snow days this year.
Since Minnehaha plans for some unexpected cancellations each year, this may be an opportunity to shorten future school years, as digital learning days come much closer to replacing a school day than ever before.
“I don’t think virtual learning is something we should continue if we can have it in person, because kids learn a lot better in person,” freshman Jack Quale said.
Even though it is possible to teach online, it is not the same as in person because students have more difficulty learning when away from the classroom.
Most years, snow days are dictated by public schools. However, Minnehaha will not be able to rely on this measure, as the public schools are fully online. Burton said that snow days will be decided mostly on transportation, because this is still run by the public schools and can close. However, she also said that the safety of the community will be a large part of deciding when a snow day is necessary this year.