Snow days to continue for many school districts despite remote learning growth amid COVID-19 pandemic

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) – Despite major advances in remote learning access, snow days may still be a reality this year for many local school districts.

Sullivan County Director of Schools Dr. David Cox says they hope snow days will eventually be phased out.

“I think we’ll get there eventually, we’re just not there yet,” said Dr. Cox.

But calling off school could still be necessary this winter as some students across the district still lack the proper technology or connectivity to learn remotely.

“We still have some of our students in more remote areas that are not able to connect fully,” said Dr. Cox.

Kingsport City Schools is also working to overcome connectivity barriers for all its students, especially in grades K-5. Until then, snow days won’t disappear completely, according to KCS Superintendent Dr. Jeff Moorhouse.

“I do think that as our capabilities increase, I would say that we’re closer to times like that than we were obviously a year ago or two years ago,” said Moorhouse. “And do I think that could happen on the horizon, yes. But I think there are still some hurdles.”

Johnson City Schools will also keep traditional snow days if needed. Director of Instruction and Communication Dr. Debra Bentley said with snow days often called late the night before, there may not be enough time to ensure students have the necessary devices to learn from home.

“With inclement weather, you can also experience power outages, WiFi outages,” said Dr. Bentley. “Therefore we do not feel it’s in the best interest of learning for students to try and expect them to be remote learners, even if they’re home for a snow day.”

For Washington County, Tennessee, Schools, teachers must still report to school buildings each day to access the equipment needed to teach virtually. Additionally, many students still need access to the buildings for reasons including lab work and special education programs. So snow days remain a reality for the district as well.

“Even though we’re fully virtual, we might have a thousand people in our buildings. So a snow day for us is just like any other year,” said Dr. Bill Flanary, director of Washington County Schools. “I don’t need all those people on the road, risking tearing up their vehicle or God forbid getting hurt.”

Snow days will likely be less common for Lee County, Virginia Schools in wake of improved virtual learning, and trying to plan online lessons in advance.

“We may still have snow days or inclement weather days, but we’re going to try to do remote learning as much as we possibly can,” said Superintendent Dr. Brian Austin. “Because first of all, we’ve got demonstrated capacity for that now, as well as the ability to engage students remotely much more than we have in the past.”

You can keep up to date on school closings throughout the region here.

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