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Snow days permanently melt away for OPS students

Snow days permanently melt away for OPS students

Springville Elementary was one of the schools that welcomed students back for the first time this semester after starting the year with remote learning.

Omaha Public Schools students still can tweet at their superintendent to ask for a day off, but heavy snow no longer will lead to canceled classes.

District officials this week told OPS families that students will be expected to log onto their district-issued electronic devices on would-be snow days. Teachers will take attendance.

“We know this year has presented challenges unlike any other, so it is especially important to maintain student engagement even if winter weather gets in the way of learning at school,” the note to families said.

The change to snow days will last beyond this school year, OPS spokeswoman Bridget Blevins said, because “our 1 to 1 Technology Initiative now allows us the opportunity to support students with teaching and learning at home.”

This school year, OPS became a one-to-one technology district when every student was supplied with an iPad. The iPads were vital when OPS started the school year remotely because of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Students are using the devices this school year as OPS operates under the Family 3/2 model, which divides students into two groups, each of which attends school in person for part of the week. Students learn remotely on the other days.

On inclement weather days, the district said, remote teaching and learning will take place in the morning, with teachers available to answer questions in the early afternoon.

For elementary students, the school day will begin at 8:50 a.m.

Secondary students will follow a shortened class schedule, with most schools beginning online classes at 8:40 a.m. Central and South High Schools will begin at 8:20 a.m. because they don’t have block scheduling.

Other districts in the Omaha area have considered eliminating snow days because of remote-learning capabilities.

The Millard Public Schools already had been heading in that direction by renaming their snow days “e-learning days” and giving kids work to do. This year, Millard school board members made it official, erasing four snow days that had been built into the calendar.

Unlike OPS, on Millard’s e-learning days, students study on their own time schedule as opposed to logging into a videoconference class at a specific time. Teachers will provide the work and be available for questions, Millard district spokeswoman Rebecca Kleeman said last month.

“But there is no set time everyone will Zoom in together,” she said. “So if you want to sleep late or go build a snowman, you can. You just have to get the work done on your own schedule.”

Other school districts, such as the Elkhorn and Bellevue Public Schools, have said they will keep snow days.

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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

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