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Snow day question: Should students be on computers or on sleds?

At least three local districts, Forsyth, Hall and Gwinnett, treat weather closings, including today, as mandatory digital learning days so students don't lose valuable academic ground.  Both teachers and students go online to complete and discuss assignments.

But one metro school chief made a special video this morning in the snow saying his district wasn't going to go down that digital learning trail. Clayton superintendent Morcease Beasley -- see video below -- told his students via Twitter not to go online, but go outside. Today, he said, was for simple fun in the snow.

Which approach do you support? Is there time for both?

Several parents posted on AJC Get Schooled Facebook that their children's digital assignments allow time for snow and sleds. "My 5th grader was finished with his online assignments in about an hour this morning. My 7th grader is working, but finished in under 3 hours last time. Plenty of time to do work and still enjoy the day," said a parent.

Teachers in digital learning districts explained they send their students home with assignments if bad weather is predicted so even those without online access can keep up. In reviewing how many of its students logged on during a digital learning day, a Gwinnett middle school had almost every single student log in to work on the assignment.

As a commenter on AJC Get Schooled Facebook said: "I have a friend with a child in a Gwinnett middle school. She told me parents received text messages about how the digital learning day would work the evening school was cancelled the last time. Her daughter was online working with access to teacher from 10-2. Hugely impressed. Shows why Gwinnett consistently outperforms other districts."

A teacher in a digital learning district explained: "I provided paper and pencil assignments for my students that don’t have computers or Wi-Fi. Also, my digital assignments consist mainly of looking at the assignment online, then completing it on a separate sheet of paper (read for 30 minutes, write a response, etc). I also gave them a week to complete the assignments. However, I’m at a Title 1 school, and the vast majority of my kids have Wi-Fi, and a large number have a tablet, since they are pretty inexpensive these days. I think a lot of the barriers to internet have come down in the last few years."

A Forsyth teacher said:  "In Forsyth County we do provide devices to students who can’t afford them, as well internet hotspots for students who don’t have internet at home. Our students are expected to start their assignments on the day we are at home, but have up to three days to complete them. All assignments are posted to our digital learning platform by 9 am the day of the school closure. It works well." 

Another Forsyth teacher explained:  "I am a teacher and it works great in Forsyth. In fact, our kids are so used to it now from doing it the last few years that, despite required “digital office hours” I haven’t had to answer a single question about assignments or what is expected. My seventh graders just log on and do it. My completion rates are very high. If they have tech issues, they know they have three days per snow day to make it up. In counties that are still new to it like Hall and Gwinnett, you’ll see more parent complaints because it’s new and takes some getting used to, in addition to online capacity issues. But those kinks will work out."

But at least two local school chiefs used social media today to urge  their students to go play in the snow. Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen posted "Have fun playing outside" on Twitter.

Clayton County superintendent Morcease Beasley went a step beyond. He shared a video message on Twitter extolling this students to just be kids and have fun. Schoolwork can wait. We are not going online today, he said.

My official video to declare it a “Snow Day” for children to have fun, learn, and just be kids again. Make it count. Enjoy. #atlantasnow

— Morcease Beasley (@MorceaseBeasley) January 17, 2018

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.