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Ohio District Asks Snowbound Students to Log On

How one district uses snow days to extend the school day and online learning opportunities for their students.

The 700 students that attend Mississinawa Valley (Ohio) Schools now have some work to do on their snow days. Only three "calamity days" are allowed, instead of the usual five, and two days will become "eDays," in which all K12 students will spend their time working on online lessons created by their teachers. This was made possible after the Ohio Department of Education in September allowed the district to adopt this change. On the fourth and fifth calamity days, students will log on to the district's Web site and follow their class's eDay lesson plans and assessments. If the district does not use all five calamity days, its April vacation will be extended, and students can use their eDays then.

According to Superintendent Lisa Wendel, however, the transition is about much more than reducing snow days. "This is a chance to extend and advance education technologically. Change needs a reason, and calamity days were our reason," says Wendel. Fifty-two percent of the district's students receive free or reduced-price lunches, and an informal poll revealed that 89 percent of students have access to the Internet outside of school. Students are given two weeks to complete their eDay assignments, and during this time the district provides evening transportation to complete the assignments after school.

"We have a large population of students without Internet access," says Wendel. "They need access to online learning opportunities more. This forces teachers to develop it and provide it."

According to Wendel, aside from a few phone calls from concerned parents, the program has generally been well received by families and the teachers' union. Wendel hopes the district can continue to use online courses and eventually individualize learning. "When you talk about technology, the opportunities are endless," she says.