By Kayla Anderson
Snow days tend to happen in Northern Nevada wreaking havoc on people trying to get to work and school. The Tahoe Sierra especially has been getting hammered from recent storms, shutting down roads and making it near impossible for even snow plows to get through.
On days like this, trying to get to school is sometimes out of the question. School districts all across America have generally been pretty understanding, calling it a “snow day” and urging kids to stay home. Staff behind the scenes then create policies and plans for how to make up the missed school days.
However, new this year the Washoe County School District implemented Digital Days – a curriculum that the teacher provides on days when everybody has to stay home. The concept was first introduced as a pilot program in Incline Village in the 2017-18 season and has since been adopted by other schools across the district for the 2018-19 school year.
This last round of snowstorms caused Digital Days to go into effect all across the district, which has been the first real test of the new program. Students were expected to participate in learning activities at home equal to the amount of time they would have been in school. Students either receive assignments from their teachers in advance of a snow day and those who cannot access the internet have one extra day to complete assignments after the snow day to be marked as “present”.
However, there have been some challenges with the program, especially with multiple students in one household with only one computer, power outages, and other issues that come with a major snowstorm.
The biggest issue with Digital Days, though, is that they may be illegal. The Nevada Department of Education never condoned the use of Digital Days in Washoe County and has stated that requiring students to participate in them is against the law. In a letter addressed on January 4 to Superintendent Traci Davis from State of Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero, it was very clear that based on the NRS regulations defined in the letter that the proposal for Digital Days was not approved. Last Friday, Nevada Department of Education Jonathan Moore asked that WCSD stop implementing Digital Days until they can agree on a solution that will work for both parties involved.
Other districts in Truckee and South Lake Tahoe have been interested in adopting the Digital Days program in their own jurisdictions, but Lake Tahoe Union School District PIO Shannon Chandler acknowledged that the education laws are different in California and is vetting out all possibilities for how to handle snow days.
The WCSD also split snow days into regions and categories, almost making it more confusing on whether students should stay home or not. On February 4, the district called a 2-hour delay on most schools in Washoe County and a Digital Day in Incline Village. When it used Facebook to communicate the message, comments from Northern Nevadans were as follows as tried to figure out whether they should try to brave the snow or not:
Facebook post from WCSD on Feb. 4:
Incline Village schools will implement a digital school day. All other WCSD schools will have a two-hour delay. Winter bus stops are in effect.
Residents noted in the comment section how bad the snow was in Spanish Springs/Sparks and expected to get worse. Here are how people responded:
“So Cold Springs is going to wind up on a Digital Day, but I won’t find out again until I’m at work? Obviously, it’s snowing pretty hard out here. Just call it so I can get the kids’ assignments before I drop them off.”
“What about getting kids home later? The blizzard warning is in effect until 10 p.m. with the winter storm warning in effect until tomorrow night. It’s only supposed to get worse as the day goes on, they’re forecasting 6-12 inches on the valley floors between today and tomorrow.”
“2-hour delays are a killer for working parents. My kid’s school doesn’t begin until 11:15, how am I supposed to work and get her to school at that time? That’s why we have Digital Days, let’s use them and not add useless absences.”
“’Snow Day’ has a much better ring.”
So many questions still remain, such as:
Are teachers compensated for Digital Days? Will kids who did assignments on digital days get credit? How do teachers predict Digital Days to be able to send assignments home in advance, or efficiently prepare for them?
However, with the WCSD in hot water with the state, they are reluctant to give any answers.
“This is a pretty dynamic situation, and I’m afraid I won’t have any updated information for you today (February 11),” stated District PIO Victoria Campbell.
Another series of winter storms is expected throughout the region over the next week.