By Kara Damm, District 518
WORTHINGTON - Cold, harsh weather is not new to Minnesota, but this year has been extremely rough for Minnesota schools. When we are met with blizzards, extreme cold or polar vortexes, school administrators make the difficult decision to close school for the safety of students and all district staff. In Minnesota, Statute 120A.41 requires both charter and independent school districts to provide a minimum annual instructional hours for the following grades: 850 hours for full-day, daily kindergarten, 935 hours for grades 1-6 and 1,020 hours for grades 7-12.
In 2017, the Minnesota Legislature amended Minnesota Statute 120A.41 to include the option of schools utilizing e-learning days. School districts may use up to five e-learning days in one school year due to inclement weather. The five e-learning days will count as an instructional days. The Worthington School District had an overwhelming number of school closings due to inclement weather this year. The district’s first e-learning day was on March 12. Four more dates quickly followed on March 25, April 11, April 12 and April 22.
Once an e-Learning Day has been decided, due to poor weather conditions, teaching staff for grades 5-12 will post class assignments in Schoology, the district’s Learning Management System, for students to access. Being a 1:1 iPad District allows for students to access their classes electronically. Some classes may have a short lecture-style video to watch before starting practice problems, while others could hold a class discussion or post assignments. All material posted will be relevant and concurrent to what is currently being taught when in the classroom.
Grades K-4 will have a list of educational activities for students to experience prepared for them by teachers at their grade level. Students will receive a paper copy of these educational activities for the e-learning day. Teachers will also upload these tasks to the digital platform, SeeSaw. Parents can sign and send the paper copies of activities back to school to show participation by the student. Prior to March 25, staff will spend time working with students about what kinds of learning experiences they can engage in when school is cancelled. These activities include things such as reading, playing games and creating objects with items from home.
If a student does not have Internet at home, he or she should speak with their teacher to download the class material before leaving school when inclement weather may be possible. The teacher will make note that the class material and assignments were downloaded and the student can turn his or her work in when school resumes. The district is currently writing an e-learning day plan that will be approved by the Education Association and then the school
board for the 2019-2020 school year. The e-learning day p[lan is a required component by the state to host digital learning days.
As we work through this new style of snow days, the district would like to extend a big thank you to the teachers, parents and students for being patient and understanding. This is a new journey for all of us and e-Learning Days can help our students continue academic excellence on those cold, harsh Minnesota winter days.
Kara Damm is District 518’s digital learning coordinator.