Delegate Joseph McNamara’s (R-Roanoke) HB 1790 will allow public schools to declare unscheduled remote learning days instead of snow days — but he’s not trying to eradicate snow days.
“I want kids to have snow days, and I want them to go out and build snowmen, and throw snow balls and have grilled cheese sandwiches,” he said. “I’ll use Roanoke County as an example. Several years back, they missed about 13 days of school in about a month-and-a-half period. And when you have situations where you have ice in the mountains areas and kids can’t get back into school for days sometimes, it’s not really a snow day. It’s a nasty, ugly day, and so this would give schools another opportunity.”
McNamara said the remote learning days could be used for other problems, like a flooded building.
“It just gives schools another club in the bag to keep kids learning, to keep our children learning in the most effective manner possible,” McNamara said.
Although there is an exemption for emergency declarations currently in effect, Virginia schools must have 180 teaching days or 990 teaching hours, or they lose some funding. McNamara’s bill allows districts to count up to ten unscheduled remote learning days towards their requirement. It passed the House with bipartisan support and is now in committee in the Senate.
“Currently, schools make their 180 days,” McNamara said. “They all make it. The reason they all make it is because they don’t want to lose funding. And what happens is, you build your calendar with a few days, but then if you use your days you add days on at the end of the year. And oftentimes those days added on at the end of the year after assessment tests, they’re not as valuable as days when you’re in the prime meat of the instruction.”
Already, some schools have opted to use virtual days instead of snow days. After a northern Virginia snowstorm in December, some parents told The Virginia Star that their kids needed the break, and a snow day was a welcome piece of normalcy during COVID-19. But other parents said it wasn’t a big deal, and cited a need to get as much learning in as possible during virtual learning. But McNamara’s bill makes it clear — even after COVID-19, remote learning won’t completely go away.
However, he said, “It’s not going to be real widespread.” He added, “The Board of Education is going to develop some guidelines on when it would be appropriate to utilize this tool.”
McNamara said the goal was just to provide another option for schools. He said, “I think you’ll see it occasionally when it makes sense for institutions that are already well-structured.”
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