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Understanding “snow days” versus “e-learning days”

For many years, Carl Sandburg High School has shown resilience with upholding the importance of education during difficult times. Most recently, throughout the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the school took the difficult step toward electronic learning or “e-learning” in which students log onto their classes through a virtual Google Meet. This adjustment—although difficult—allowed students to continue their education even during times when they could not meet in person.

Now that the pandemic has significantly diminished, students have been enjoying their in-person learning every day at Sandburg – unless there’s a snow day. 

Before the implementation of E-learning, students would be thrilled to hear that school was canceled due to snow. They would have the benefit of sleeping late, going sledding with friends, and making hot cocoa. However, these “snow days” would need to be made up, tacking an additional day of school to the end-of-the-school-year calendar. 

Now, students are required to review virtual information from each of their classes to keep up with coursework. The shift to this new way of learning has led many withing the Sandburg community to ask the question: which is more preferable, e-learning or snow days? 

Sandburg student Josie Bundy stated that with e-learning, “It’s nice to have a day at home to just work on things for class, so it still has that ‘snow day’ feel to it even though we still have schoolwork to do at home.” They also added “most of my teachers use e-learning days as work days for class, so I really don’t see much of a difference with my own personal schedule,” emphasizing the efficiency of e-learning.

Having a day off, like a “snow day,” may seem nice, but being interrupted from productivity is clearly frustrating for students and teachers. Associate Principal Mrs. Huffman noted that between snow days and e-learning, “the major difference is that instruction can continue.”

Mrs. Huffman mentioned that when deciding whether or not to have a day at home, an important factor is safety. She says, “Calling a snow day is complex. You’re worried about students driving and staff driving, so having the flexibility to use e-learning is an additional benefit. Kids are also more equipped to do classwork in a virtual environment.” The pandemic was no doubt strenuous on students, but using e-learning tools allowed them to adjust when necessary.

However, the idea of having an online learning day stems far before the isolating quarantine of the pandemic. Mrs. Huffman shared about the development of electronic learning in the mid-2010’s, stating, “It actually started as a pilot program in the state. There were three schools in Illinois that could call an e-learning day. We had to write a proposal, get feedback, and inform the legislation that eventually created e-learning days. It is now part of the Illinois school code that superintendents can decide to call a virtual learning day.” This proposal that began as a small plan proved its benefits when students and teachers needed it most in the pandemic, and continues to serve a purpose with snow days today.

Despite the benefits of e-learning in terms of productivity, learning, and safety, many students and teachers still think that having fun on a snowy day is great for everyone. Bundy emphasized, “I think e-learning days are a good alternative, but I wish we could have full-blown snow days.”

Mrs. Huffman seems to agree, remarking, “I have seen superintendents call a snow day every once in a while because there’s some nostalgia there.”

E-learning might be the modern accommodation for wintery weather, but the excitement of staying cozy at home never grows old for anyone.

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