Let the snow come: these districts don’t miss days


Wednesday was a snow day, but still a school day, for many metro Atlanta students.

Some school districts, such as Gwinnett and Forsyth, use online lesson plans and assignments for students to avoid missing a snow day, a practice they’ve used for a few years, to the disappointment of some students.

In Gwinnett, the state’s largest school district, the threat of ice and frigid temperatures on Jan. 8 was the first time it was put to the test system-wide.

“Our school calendar has three snow days built in,” said Sloan Roach, a Gwinnett Schools spokeswoman. “We used those up in September when [Tropical Storm Irma] hit.”

Making up days during scheduled student breaks can interfere with graduation schedules and planned family vacations.

With the technology already in place and with teachers, students and support staff prepared, the schools decided to give Digital Learning Days a try. The preliminary reports showed that there were no major issues, but Associate Superintendent Jonathan Patterson is set to give a full report at the school board work session Thursday.

To keep all 200,000 teachers, administrators and students from accessing the system at the same time, Gwinnett rolls out assignments by grade levels. The assignments are posted between 8 and 10 a.m.

Students use a student portal to log in to their course pages where they access assignments, resources and other materials. If the power is out, a student may access the teacher’s course page when power returns. If a student does not have access to a computer or device, the student can get and complete the assignment once school resumes.

Amanda Acres, a teacher at Gwinnett’s Harbins Elementary has supplied students and parents with tips to make the situation easier. First, make the day fun. “Do not have them sit for several hours at a time completing work,” Acres wrote. She also advises families to remember to pace themselves and be patient.

“If eClass is needed, try earlier in the day or later in the afternoon if (the system) seems to be slowing down.” wrote Acres.

Some parents reported trouble accessing the system. Others complained, describing the online lessons as “busy work.”

Fulton County, with about 100,000 students, has discussed digital learning days, said district spokeswoman Donna Lowry. Some concerns, she said, include how students complete assignments in case of a power outage or don’t have a home computer.

Forsyth school district officials have worked to address such issues by working with community organizations and donors to supply students with WiFi devices, tablets or laptop computers. The school district estimates about 10 percent of 47,000 students may not have the capability to complete assignments online.

Forsyth allows students three days to complete the work. Students can finish an assignment once they return to school, officials said.

Forsyth has used online learning for four years. The assignments are typically 20 minutes to one hour and teachers usually post the online assignments by 9 a.m.

“It gives us the opportunity for kids to be kids and enjoy the snow day,” said Forsyth school district spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo.

The school district worked to make some tweaks over the years. Caracciolo said Forsyth evaluates how the learning works each time they cancel classes for inclement weather.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Education

University of North Georgia unveils $37 million convocation center
University of North Georgia unveils $37 million convocation center

University of North Georgia officials on Wednesday showed off its new $37 million convocation center, located on its Dahlonega campus. The 103,000 square-foot facility will be used for basketball games, commencement ceremonies, concerts and military training exercises. Additionally, the center has classroom space and three labs. It will also host...
Grad from ‘bad school’ tackles testing, talent and typecasting
Grad from ‘bad school’ tackles testing, talent and typecasting

I have seen lots of wisdom this year from student speakers at high school graduations. Here is a brilliant example from an Athens graduating senior. Cedar Shoals High School salutatorian Henry Vencill first talked about what earned him the distinction of addressing his classmates. He said: “But because I was able to perform well in a hyper-structured...
APS teacher allegedly asked students to call him 'daddy,' hid arrest
APS teacher allegedly asked students to call him 'daddy,' hid arrest

An Atlanta Public Schools tribunal upheld the two-day unpaid suspension of a teacher who allegedly asked his students to call him “daddy” and failed to disclose a decade-old arrest.  Nicolas Alarcon, 37, appealed the superintendent’s December recommendation to suspend him after an internal investigation into allegations he referred...
Betsy DeVos: Up to schools whether to report undocumented students
Betsy DeVos: Up to schools whether to report undocumented students

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos alarmed civil liberties advocates with comments Tuesday that it falls to schools to decide whether to report undocumented students to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  At a meeting of the House Education and Workforce Committee, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-New York, asked the Secretary: “Inside the...
APS to spend $39M to renovate four schools
APS to spend $39M to renovate four schools

The Atlanta school board approved construction management contracts totaling more than $39 million to renovate four schools.  The contracts, approved by the board earlier this month, are: $8.5 million for Beecher Hills Elementary School, $8.4 million for Hollis Innovation Academy, $7.8 million for Harper-Archer Elementary School and $14.4 million...
More Stories