School districts plan remote learning days as winter nears

While some have stuck to keeping snow days and adding on time at the end of the year, others are honing in on e-learning.
Published: Oct. 31, 2023 at 6:24 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Winter weather in South Dakota will always be a factor for schools when planning their calendars. While some have stuck to keeping snow days and adding on time at the end of the year, others are still honing in and attempting to stop that with e-learning.

Ever since the pandemic forced school districts to utilize remote learning, many have now taken those strategies and used them to avoid adding snow days with e-learning days.

After holding off on remote learning, the Sioux Falls School District is one of the newest districts in the state to add remote learning. Assistant Superintendent Teresa Boysen said the district wanted to make sure students had everything they needed physically before switching, as well as making sure every lesson could be accessed online.

“We used the summer to develop how this would roll out. We have Canvas as our learning management platform, and our teachers will post their assignments and everything in that platform by 9:00 in the morning. And then be there to support our students and families throughout the day with any questions, or additional materials they might need,” Boysen said.

Boysen said if the weather outlook shows a poor forecast, students will be sent home with electronic devices the day before. And a final call will be made that morning, on whether students should stay home or come back to school.

But not every school district in South Dakota is making the move to remote learning. In fact, at least one school district has got rid of their remote learning plan after implementing it a couple of years ago.

Elkton School District Superintendent Brian Jandahl said the district is back to snow days after starting remote learning after the pandemic. That’s because staff felt that for elementary-age students, the quality of learning online wasn’t as effective as in-person classes.

“Basically, they came up with a statement that we shared at our November board meeting a year ago, that said the effectiveness of e-learning for our students will never be as great as the quality of learning experienced with teachers in the room,” Jandahl said.

So instead, the Elkton School District decided to tack on an additional eight days to the end of it’s calendar. But Jandahl said they don’t plan on using all of them, as long as the district meets the 173-equivalent days that is required by the Department of Education.

“So we have 180 days on our school calendar for students. But it also says that we will stop when we hit 173 days,” Jandahl said.

Boysen said the move to remote learning doesn’t mean the Sioux Falls School District is completely eliminating snow days. If there is winter weather that pops up, something that wasn’t forecasted and students don’t have the devices they need, they would then call a snow day.