www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/laurel/ph-ll-school-snow-0303-20140305,0,1565777.story

baltimoresun.com

Laurel school turns to tech on snow days

By Sara Toth, stoth@tribune.com

3:13 PM EST, March 5, 2014

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Digging out from yet another winter blast of snow and ice this week, Laurel-area students had not one, but two snow days.

Prince George's County Public Schools have canceled school seven times this winter, said district spokesman Max Pugh. With only four built into the calendar, the system will be applying for a state waiver to forgive some of those days. If no more snow days are used, and if the waiver isn't granted, the last day of school in Prince George's County would be Monday, June 16.

"Historically, we've added those days on to the end of the school year," Pugh said. "We're asking for the state to forgive at least a couple of those days."

The snow this week, which closed schools Monday and Tuesday, threw another wrench into the educational flow. Maryland School Assessments, set to begin this week, have been pushed back a day.

"Interruptions are always not wanted, especially around MSA time," Pugh said. "That has been challenging."

Closing schools has ramifications beyond the educational, Pugh said, like when it comes to students living in poverty.

"If a student qualifies for free and reduced meals, they can be lacking food when school's not in session," Pugh said. "When they don't come to school, they may not get to have a meal. We're always concerned about the well-being of the whole child."

Instruction is, of course, better when the schools are open, Pugh said, but "we're managing so far."

Students at the Chesapeake Math and IT Academy in West Laurel, for example, web-conferenced into a language arts class for the first time Monday.

"It was absolutely beautiful," said Anthea Seymour, a CMIT parent. "My daughter was on the computer for quite awhile in a session with her teacher and other students. It made Monday feel very productive, when it otherwise would have been an unproductive day."

With technology more readily available and more advanced, Seymour said that web-conferences on snow days "are the way to go."

"We should think about how to use those days more productively," she said. "It doesn't mean they're not out playing in the snow, but that they're taking time to be engaged in their learning as well."

Another CMIT parent, Erin Maniece, said that even without the online conference, snow days have been busy for her seventh-grader, as there's always homework to do.

Maniece sad she was torn when it came to snow days — an unusually high amount this year — because "in some respects it interrupts the flow of whatever it is they're doing, but I would rather them be safe. ... I don't mind them having to go to school later in the summer, that's just the way it is. Some years you go later, some earlier."

With spring inching closer — but still out of reach in the freezing temperatures this week — Laurel parents are ready to put winter to bed. So are their children.

"At first, the kids were really excited about the snow days," Maniece said. "But they're done with the snow, just like us. They just want to move on. They're looking forward to spring break and it finally being warm again."