MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
We're less than a month away from the first day of winter, and some school districts are working on creative solutions to an age-old winter problem: the snow day. Now, few students have a problem with the idea of canceling school and instead, just playing in the snow for hours. But for school administrators and teachers, too many snow days can push the school year out of May and into June.
So this year, one rural district in Ohio will be the first in the state to try a new kind of snow day, where classes are held online.
Emily McCord, of member station WYSO, reports.
EMILY MCCORD: The Mississinawa Valley School District, on the Ohio-Indiana line, typically gets a lot of snow each winter. Ohio only allows three days of missed school. But last year, the district had nine. That means the students had to make up those days in June.
Ms. LISA WENDEL (Superintendent, Mississinawa Valley School District): Nobody likes the June days. Kids don't like it, parents don't like it, teachers don't like it. So our staff's pretty creative and they said, you know, let's do this thing.
MCCORD: Lisa Wendel is the superintendent. She says now, instead of a snow day, it's an e-day - or electronic day. She says teachers have already created the lessons, and students will access them from a home computer. And if a student doesn't have one, they have two weeks to complete the lesson.
Wendel demonstrates one lesson that's already prepared for some younger, elementary school kids.
Ms. WENDEL: It's a little video of - actually, a dance that they do in school here. So they know all the movements to this one. It's called Tooty Ta(ph).
MCCORD: Okay, for the small kids, the lessons sound at least a little fun. But doesn't it still mean that they won't be able to play outside on those beloved snow days?
Ms. SHEILA SCHOLL (Teacher): Oh, for heaven's sake, yes, they're going to get to play. It's not like we're saying, no, you can't. I'm going to be outside playing in the snow.
MCCORD: Sheila Scholl is a third-grade teacher at the district.
Ms. SCHOLL: But I'm also going to be in my house during those hours so that if my students do have problems, they can contact me by phone. If they don't understand something - Mrs. Scholl, I need help, I don't understand this; and then I can walk them through it.
MCCORD: Of course, the teacher is going to say it's a great idea. But how does a kindergartener like Bryson Rehmert feel about it? Surprisingly, he's not fazed. In fact, he already has his day planned out.
BRYSON REHMERT: I usually go outside and play with my dad. Or I get my four-wheeler out when the snow is not that deep. And I ride my four-wheeler, and me and my dad do doughnuts. I'm going to do that for a minute, and then I'm going to go inside and turn on the computer.
MCCORD: Many of the older students at Mississinawa Valley High School seem to share some enthusiasm for the idea. Senior Jordan Wicker says it's better than making the days up in June, when it's hard to stay inside.
JORDAN WICKER: Are you serious? Because like, you know, snow days - what kid wants to do homework on a snow day? I mean, it's actually not a bad idea. I mean, 'cause you get enough time to work on it. And you're not falling behind in classes. And senior year, that's the last thing you want to be worrying about -is falling behind in a class.
MCCORD: But for sixth-grader Kaine Daniels, the news of working on a snow day is tragic.
KAINE DANIELS: I think it may be good for teachers, but not so much for kids.
MCCORD: If this winter delivers on the promise of snow, students like Daniels will have to suffer through it, at least for this year. Mississinawa Valley School District is partnering with an area university to study the effectiveness of the program, and will decide whether or not to continue e-days instead of snow days.
For NPR News, I'm Emily McCord.
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