eLearning could end area snow days

WABASH, Ind. (WANE) – Snow days have piled up at school districts across the region, but Wabash County Schools have a state-approved pilot program that could end, or limit, snow days.

The district uses eLearning, which gives students homework and assignments to do during snow days.

“We’ve applied for several grants through [the state's] eLearning department,” Dr. Sandra Weaver, the district’s superintendent, said.  “We were approved for the pilot, and actually we had hoped that maybe by next year we could use [this year's snow] days for maybe an eLearning day, but because of the snow this year they decided to let us try it this year.”

Click here to learn more about the Indiana Department of Education’s Office of eLearning.

State law requires students to be in school 180 days, but thanks to eLearning, Wabash County Schools’ students have a little less.  “We have 177 days in the building and three days that are dong through learning at home,” Weaver said.

The district added another eLearning day on Wednesday, when snow canceled school there for the seventh time this year.

“With advanced warning, we can download assignments, so students are able to work from home,” Weaver, who is in her sixth year as the district’s superintendent, said.  “We canceled school Wednesday, but it counts as a day of attendance for us because our students did their learning through electronic means.”

Every student in the district between kindergarten and second grade has been issued iPads, while all the other students have been given MacBook Airs.  Since the lessons are put on the electronic devices before students go home, students are not required to have internet at home.

“They’ve gone very good,” Tracy Kennedy, a mother of two students, said.  “I don’t think it’s been any problem at all.  [Students] seem to be well prepared when they come home.”

It took some extra funds to issue the entire district’s student body iPads and laptops.  The district boosted its wireless internet after a $3.1 million school bond was approved.  “It’s a four-year bond,” Weaver said.  “It will all be paid back within four years.”

Weaver’s proud her district is helping state leaders decide if eLearning should be offered to every Indiana school district, and is pleased with the results so far.

“I’d be willing to help any district interested in this,” Weaver said.  “You have to have the devices, you have to have the infrastructure, and a lot of professional development for your staff.  But it’s pretty seamless for the students.”

Weaver added that some parents were concerned at first, because some parents would have to hire babysitters on eLearning days, but more parents are becoming bigger fans of the program.

“I think schools would be crazy not to do it, in my opinion,” Kennedy said.  “We usually don’t have winters like this, but with this one being the way that’s its been, I think it’s been great that we’ve had the luxury of getting to do this first.”

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