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It may sound strange to teenagers now, but once upon a time, if your town saw heavy snow, it meant you didn’t have school the next day.
Looking out the window on a Tuesday afternoon and seeing nothing but a thick blanket of glittering snow, and with a forecast calling for possibly a foot more on Tuesday and into Wednesday would have set off party bells.
Snow day, no school.
That’s not the case anymore and is rapidly moving into the “in my day, I walked to school in the snow, up hill, both ways” category of adults talking to children and teenagers.
Now, when there’s feet of snow on the ground, students hear, “pivot to virtual” and that’s by design.
So, is it even possible to have a snow day now?
“No,” said Jessica Duff, a spokeswoman for the Pulaski County Special School District. “Due to [Arkansas Department of Education] requirements to pivot to virtual in all possible cases.”
The county school district can still call off school though.
“In the case of an emergency, the district can ‘close’ and provide no instruction,” Duff said. “But those days must be made up at the end of the school year.”
The same is true in the North Little Rock School District, said spokesman Dustin Barnes.
“It is possible,” Barnes said of Snow Days. “However, traditional snow days as we have known them may be different in the future. Technology allows us to continue the teaching and learning process so there is no pause in instruction.”
And that’s true.
Technology has made huge strides in education, especially. There’s also another factor at play.
“The pandemic has forced all of us to consider instruction remotely,” Barnes said. “When there is a spike at an individual school, we have been able to pivot. That gives us the ability to have continuity of the teaching and learning process. The same works in this current reality as we strive to academically engage and challenge our students so that there is no learning loss.”
Both districts said they keep a close eye on the sky during inclement weather.
“First and foremost, we consider the health and safety of our students and staff,” Barnes said. “As a result of this, we collect relevant, updated information from multiple sources as it relates to a weather event, including the Arkansas Weather Service and local government leaders.”
Barnes added the district has an internal team who assess roads and conditions before a decision is reached.
Duff said the county district also looks “at the weather predictions and how it could impact the roads.”With the county district being a mix of urban and rural, it also has some challenges that a city-based district like North Little Rock doesn’t.
“Several of our students live in rural areas and must drive on difficult roads to access the schools,” Duff said. “Additionally, dangerously cold temperatures are not conducive for our students to be outside in the snow waiting on the bus.”