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Minnesota Bill Would Replace Snow Days With Online Learning Days

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota lawmakers are considering legislation that could spell the end for snow days.

In an attempt to curb the amount of days tacked onto the end of the school year, a House committee heard legislation that would let schools substitute snow days for home learning, or e-learning, days. Families would be notified at least two hours before school starts and students would begin their online coursework at the beginning of the school day.

In southwestern Minnesota, the Zumbrota-Mazeppa school district has what they call WILD, or Weather Induced Learning Days. Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski, the author of the bill, lives in Mazeppa and brought in the area's high school principal, David Anderson, to talk about the program.

Started in late 2015, Anderson said WILD helps kids keep up with their school work in the face of unexpected cancellations.

"The ability for kids to continue to do coursework provided by their teachers was very well received, not only by our teachers but by our parents as well," he said.

The program works in the rural district because all students have access to laptops they can bring home. Students who don't have internet access at home can submit their assignments on paper or online after returning to school.

Democratic Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, an educator herself, praised the program and said it is a great way to keep students on track. The New Brighton lawmaker raised the idea of providing internet "hot spots" for students who don't have web access at home.

Kids aren't the only ones losing out on a day off though, as teachers have to stay near their computers and monitor their students' participation in the day's activities and answer questions.

Angela Heitmann, a Zumbrota-Mazeppa teacher, said the online assignments are often supplementary to class work, because something like a biology lab can't be brought home. The types of assignments vary, she said, depending on the students' age and subject level.

Snow days are safe for now, as the committee didn't vote on the bill, but laid it aside for possible inclusion in a larger education bill.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

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