Brayden Channon enjoys a snow day off from school in February 2019 by sliding down a mound of snow outside his home in Watertown. Watertown Daily Times

School-age children in the North Country have long looked forward to snow days as a bright spot during the dark days of winter, but they may become a thing of the past this school year, and possibly into future years.

The state Education Department has announced a one-year pilot program that would allow schools across the state to turn snow days into remote learning days if they desire. Many local schools already have at least some students participating in remote learning because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot program would allow districts to provide “continuity of instruction on what would otherwise be a day of school closure due to a snow emergency,” the department said in a memo to superintendents.

After its one-year test run, the department will review the program to determine whether to continue with it in subsequent school years.

Stephen J. Todd, superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis BOCES, said superintendents received notices from the state Education Department last week, giving blanket permission to any school in the state that wanted to explore the option.

“Right now, in our districts, no one’s made a decision yet about if they’re going to do it or not,” Todd said.

He said each school district would need to make its own decision, based on various factors that may be specific to that district.

For instance, he said, there might be language regarding snow days in contracts with their bargaining units, and those would need to be renegotiated if the district moved forward with remote learning days instead of snow days.

“They’re beginning to talk about it. Each school will have to make those determinations. They’re all individual Boards of Education and all individual contractual arrangements,” Todd said.

Another factor to consider is the use of emergency days. Calendars for both the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES regions include 180 days of instruction, plus seven additional days for emergencies such as snow days.

Since emergency days don’t count as part of the 180 days of instruction, but remote learning would, the move would give districts flexibility to avoid having to make up snow days later in the year in order to meet the requirement of having 180 school days for the year.

“Presumably calendars would be adjusted,” Todd said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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