The 2020 school year has yielded a list of changes. The latest is the end of snow days.
The three school systems in Catawba County are already practiced at using remote learning in place of in-person instruction. Local school systems canceled in-person classes on Oct. 29 ahead of severe weather from Tropical Storm Zeta, citing safety concerns.
Instead of going to school, students used that Thursday as a remote learning day. Something similar will happen once Old Man Winter moves into the area.
“Remote learning days can be used for inclement weather days moving forward,” said Matt Stover, Catawba County Schools Superintendent. He added that Catawba County Schools will make those announcements via social media, phone calls, and other media.
“The advantage of remote learning is that our students and teachers keep the flow of the curriculum and we do not have to make up remote learning days,” Stover said. “Remote learning days count as instructional hours just as they do now.”
Hickory Public Schools Superintendent Robbie Adell said the system plans to use remote learning as an option in the event of inclement weather. He added that make-up days will not be needed since remote learning will count as instructional time.
Adell said if a student loses power, they will not be penalized with an absence. “The students will not need to make up missed days (if they lose power). Teachers will post assignments and once the student(s) have power, they can review the assignments and class recordings as they address a revised schedule with their teachers,” he explained.
Adell pointed to the positive: Not having make-up days also means not extending the school year. “Using remote-learning days allows us to complete the school year at an earlier date (versus) extending the school year,” he explained.
“In years past, due to inclement weather, we consistently faced the possibility of scheduling Saturday school, giving up spring break, removing other holidays, or extending the school year into summer,” Adell continued. “While COVID-19 has certainly brought many hardships to our community, the option of remote learning during inclement weather should prove to be helpful.”
Newton-Conover City Schools Superintendent Aron Gabriel agreed. “Because remote-learning days count towards instructional hours, it would further mitigate the need to make up school days,” he said
Gabriel knows there may be details to iron out on a case-by-case basis, but he has a general idea of how he intends to direct the school system in the event of adverse winter weather.
“In the event that I am able to anticipate and get information to our schools in the afternoon before school dismisses so students and staff alike can be sure to take their essential work items home in the event of inclement weather, then an inclement weather remote-learning day will be possible,” he explained. “If I am not able to do so, the typical response of school being closed for students as well as staff and/or an optional teacher workday for staff would still exist.”
Gabriel said Newton-Conover students will not be penalized for losing power. “Our approach is to provide additional time for students to get work submitted if they indicated they were without power,” he said.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction required school systems to add five remote-learning days to their calendars this year. Additional remote-instruction days can be added “as necessary” to ensure the health and safety of students, according to the NCDPI website.
Emily Willis is a general assignment and education reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.