Inclement Weather Days: Sledding or School?

Celeste Wetmore, Staff Reporter

Ever since snow began blanketing Arlington in early January, Arlington Public Schools administration has been forming a plan to keep students in school when weather does not permit in-person attendance. Since our school has used up all of our allowed snow days, it is time for this plan to be put into action. Thanks to online school last year, characteristics of our school’s virtual snow day schedule are familiar to all students and staff. 

Despite the benefits, students are frustrated about the prospect of doing school work on a snow day when they could be sledding or playing video games. 

“I think it’s ridiculous personally, because, back in the past, we would always have the snow days; they can’t just take it away because of the newfangled technology,” senior Daniel Platt said.

“We’ve had some good snow days though, so far, so hopefully that’s something students can draw on when they think about having to do a virtual learning day,” our school’s principal Kevin Clark said. 

Virtual school on inclement weather days is supposed to keep students from falling behind, but technology can be unpredictable. Last year, students and staff experienced frustration working with each other through Microsoft Teams and Canvas due to unexpected errors within the systems. When it comes to snow days, educators have been anticipating the same issues.

“I would be nervous about what kind of content we would be covering, because I would be afraid about students missing out on things if they had technological issues or power issues,” math teacher Deborah Seidenstein said. 

“There’s always curve balls, always a chance that something happens, but I think we’re in a really good position to be able to transition pretty seamlessly to a virtual learning day if need be,” Clark said. 

In order to effectively teach virtually, APS has composed a schedule using Microsoft Teams as the primary communication platform. Patriot Period will be eliminated in order to accommodate 10 minute passing periods and a 45 minute lunch block. The plan includes hour and a half blocks that feature synchronous and asynchronous parts. 

Whether they will be teaching synchronously or asynchronously, educators know they will have to adapt in order to teach online. As seen with hybrid school last year, converting a lesson plan from in-person to virtual is possible but stressful for teachers. Even if every student makes it to their classes on time, teachers are concerned about interacting with students effectively over a screen.   

“It’s difficult to connect with and see students, and to measure proficiency in the best way,” math teacher Jonathan Daniel said.  

Although our dedicated teachers work hard to make online school as effective as possible for students, understaffing is an uncontrollable obstacle. Understaffing has been a prevalent challenge for our school this year, especially returning from winter break. 

This issue will still be present during online teaching. Teachers who have childcare needs, or who cannot teach virtually for other reasons, will post an asynchronous assignment that students will be able to complete without synchronous instruction. In some cases, a substitute teacher may log onto a class’ call to support the students during synchronous time. 

“I don’t think having an online sub would be very productive; I would much rather just do asynchronous work,” junior Lydia Schumann said.

Clearly, both educators and students recognize the benefits and difficulties of teaching or learning from home. Despite staffing and technological concerns, our school is well equipped to revert into a virtual school schedule when necessary.