Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
Each winter, students cross their fingers hoping for enough snow to cancel school for the day – or more. School districts typically set aside a certain number of calamity days for weather-related school cancellations without having to extend the school year. But if it happens that one Ohio school district has to use all three days, the district has a plan so it won’t have to extend the school year. The Mississinawa Valley School District is implementing an online education program that allows instruction to continue during days schools would be closed due to inclement weather. Dr. Lisa Wendel, superintendent of the 700-student district, said students will log in to the district’s website, find their specific teachers and complete instructional lessons waiting for them that day. All of the district’s teachers – from pre-K up to 12th grade – develop the specific electronic lessons for their students. According to Wendel, the program incurs no additional costs to the district as the lessons will be hosted on the already-existing, intra-district website. Scott Blake, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said the department approved the district’s pilot for the 2010-2011 school year, but asserts that it would need to be evaluated before expanded statewide. Mississinawa parents, teachers and students will take surveys at the end of the school year to help gauge the effectiveness of the calamity-day alternative.