Area superintendents weigh snow day with remote learning as snow and winds approach

Education

(WIVB) — A lot of parents are going to be paying close attention to the weather forecast and how it affects their local schools. Will they get a “snow day,” or will their children be learning at home?

It depends on who you are asking, when it comes to planning for the upcoming weather event. Urban school districts have more students walking to school — right into the teeth of blowing snow and frigid temperatures. While at-home learning might be less of an option for students in rural districts.

In Niagara Falls, more than 2,000 students walk to school, and due to a driver shortage, students often find themselves waiting for a school bus in frigid weather, which can be dangerous.

“Snow, we have been able to deal with, especially up here in the north country,” said Niagara Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie. “If you can get out ahead of it, and plow it, and move it, and make the walks and the parking lots safe so that they are ready for the day, but enough time for parents to make alternative plans if they need child care support the following day because they have to go to work, but the kids will be home learning.”

Laurrie said remote learning also requires planning, such as sending students home with their computers.

Matthew Bystrak is the superintendent for West Seneca schools, and pointed out, many of their families are not connected to the internet for remote learning. And school personnel, from the administration to teachers, are pitching in to get kids to school and home safely, in what might turn out to be the teeth of the winter beast.

“There is more to making sure you have good quality education through remote learning than just, ‘hey everybody make sure you grab your Chromebooks,'” he said. “Our teachers our administrators, everybody on our custodial staff just working together to make sure we can keep our kids together. Our nurses have been absolute ‘rock stars’ throughout this whole thing.”

Hamburg schools could get caught in winter’s grip, too, but Hamburg Central school superintendent Mike Cornell told News 4 most suburban superintendents would take in-person classes over remote learning.

“You have varied home circumstances for children, so you will have some children who would be well supported at home during the remote learning day,” he said. “And other children who would not be well supported at home during a remote learning day.”

While remote learning counts toward the 180 teaching days required by the state, “snow days” have to be made up. Yet Cornell told News 4, most superintendents prefer “old school” in-person teaching to a computer screen, which can be out of reach for some families.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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