The traditional snow day is now a remote learning day

The traditional snow day is now a remote learning day.
Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 6:49 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Students across Anchorage, the Mat-Su, and the Kenai Peninsula stayed home Thursday because of hazardous road conditions from a record-breaking winter storm, but the term “snow day” doesn’t have the same meaning today that it used to in the past.

Instead of playing outside, building snowmen, and taking part in snowball fights, kids were still in school but partaking from home.

Eric Elliot, who teaches first- and second-grade students at Government Hill Elementary, was reading to his class The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. He was doing it from the seat of his couch.

He said Thursday was still kind of a “traditional snow day” — the students were not in class for six hours. But he and the other teachers try to educate as much as possible.

He jokingly said Thursday was like the first day of school.

“The first day of remote, we’re just learning all the basics; how to log into it, how to mute themselves, you know, some basic Zoom etiquette,” Elliot said.

Elliot said one of the benefits of being able to teach remotely is the kids don’t have to miss a day of school that they will have to make up later in the year.

“Nobody likes to have days tacked on during the summertime,” Elliot said.

Elliot said using remote learning during a “snow day” is still kind of new. Some of the advances in technology were discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, there is a downside. Unlike being in school, not all kids are able to participate in remote learning, he said.

“I think the biggest obstacle is the kids that don’t have the technology that they need, because there are a few kids that kind of get left out in that aspect. So even though they might not be able to be on Zoom, I still encourage them to read books and practice their flashcards and things like that at home,” Elliot said.

One of Elliot’s students, Kali, said on Thursday she missed being in school.

“You’re gonna learn more every time, “she said.

But to the amusement of her father, Benny Sullivan, she said she did get outside by shoveling the driveway.

“I just wanted to do it so I get paid,” she said.

Kali said she does find learning remotely a little more difficult, but her father said he does like it because it helps keep kids stay engaged.

“When they do end up going back to school, they’re not missing a beat. They’re not definitely outside all day, which is not a bad thing, but it’s good to keep them engaged,” Sullivan said.

He also said he would rather see his kids learning from home instead of standing outside or riding a bus during dangerous road conditions.

Deann James, an eighth-grade teacher at Jane Mears Middle School, said remote learning is a good opportunity for kids who don’t struggle, but it can be difficult for those who excel better with face-to-face instruction.

“I’ve got students in the Japanese Immersion program who are like, ‘I’m doing my homework for this, and I’m doing that.’ And then I’ve got my debate team [who] showed up, we did a little Zoom. You know, and that’s an after-school program, so the kids who are dialed in are doing it,” James said.

Her colleague Tara Bivins said she was glad the school district gave her and other teachers advance notice so they could prepare for remote learning.

“You know, last year there was, I think, a day where we were scrambling a little bit,” Bivins said.

James said there is a “double-edged sword” to that advance notice.

“The kids really thought Wednesday they weren’t going to be at school,” James said. “And although it’s nice to have that, it’s almost like we lost them for a day in school. Literally, they weren’t — they were not with it. They had stayed up Tuesday night, because they [thought they] weren’t going to have school the next day. Well then they had school the next day, and we had a lot of kids sleeping.

“Then today, they’re right. So it’s a double-edged sword, getting that extra advanced notice.”

A spokesperson with the Anchorage School District said students will have no school on Friday due to a teacher in-service day.