Virtual classes are replacing traditional snow days when extended school closures loom as districts take advantage of technology to keep students from getting behind in their studies.
As sleet, freezing rain and snow pelted Prentiss County this week, local school districts took a single snow day on Tuesday and then got back to learning.
The Booneville, Baldwyn and Prentiss County school districts were all out on Monday for the Presidents Day holiday and all three observed a traditional snow day for students on Tuesday with no work required.
Wednesday brought a different plan for students, however, as the day was designated a virtual day in the Booneville and Prentiss County school districts with students taking part in at-home learning due to dangerous weather conditions. Superintendents said a decision on the remainder of the week would be made on Wednesday afternoon, but more wintry weather in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday it’s possible students might not return to the classroom until next week.
Prentiss County Superintendent Jeff Palmer said the virtual option gives students a way to stay up to speed on their work and not have everyone get behind while still allowing for safety when dangerous conditions exist. He said teachers and staff have been working hard to create lesson plans for the potential virtual days and he’s proud of the way everyone has responded.
Palmer said the virtual option for bad weather days will also give a better choice for students who have extended illnesses or other serious issues causing them to miss an extended amount of school.
“It’s going to be a great option to keep everyone learning,” he said.
Booneville School District Superintendent Dr. Todd English agreed. He said the lessons learned and capabilities gained through the pandemic have given them an increasing ability to meet students where they are, even if that’s at home due to severe weather.
English said he still believes in allowing students to experience the fun of a traditional snow day, but when it’s clear the district is facing an extended closure such as during the current week being able to go virtual allows students to stay up to speed and avoid a major loss of learning.
“If we have power, if we have internet, we can have school safely,” he said.
English said they are very aware of the lack of internet availability for some students and teachers prepared and sent home learning packets last week for this week for those students without access so they could continue to work in the event of school closures.
He said virtual learning will also be a big benefit to students who must be out due to illness or other significant life issues.
English said the capability for virtual learning makes the decision easier to shutter schools when necessary due to weather conditions.
“It makes the decision easier that we don’t have to risk safety to have school. That’s the big thing is keeping kids safe while still educating them,” he said.