With the potential for a significant winter snow storm in the forecast for Wednesday, Harford County Public Schools announced that students learning virtually will continue to do so when there is weather that would typically force buildings to close.
And should students return for in-person learning in any capacity during the 2020-21 school year, they would still be expected to log-on for online instruction, even on days when buildings are closed because of weather.
“We have to be prepared for a return to hybrid [in-person learning] and beyond,” Jillian Lader, a spokesperson for the school system, said.
The primary reason for closing schools for snow or other inclement weather is safety, the announcement states. Using virtual instruction during inclement weather days will allow the school system to follow its scheduled academic calendar.
“Canceling all instruction on inclement weather days would require make-up days to be used in the summer ... This will allow staff better flexibility to implement summer interventions without disruption for students requiring the additional academic support,” the message states.
With the exception of about 10 students utilizing an internet connectivity hub in North Harford, all HCPS students are currently learning virtually, Lader said. On inclement weather days when the connectivity hub would be closed, those students all have hot spots they can use for virtual instruction, she said.
If the weather was significant enough to cause widespread internet or power outages, and virtual instruction is not feasible, classes would be canceled, according to the message.
HCPS staff would still be expected to report during minor weather events that are deemed not significant enough to close buildings, but would receive more specific direction from their supervisor.
Early dismissal for an unexpected weather event may still be implemented when students are in school buildings, including the North Harford Connectivity Hub. During an early dismissal, instruction would end three hours early for all students, including those who are typically learning virtually.
Because virtual instruction days count toward the 180 minimum required academic days each school year, unlike a traditional snow day, they would not have to be made up at the end of the school year.
“In prior years, inclement weather delays and closings have resulted in scheduling challenges and instructional disruption for students, staff and families, as well as unpredictability about when the school year will end,” the announcement states.
The school system also expects the new policy will allow officials to make decisions earlier when inclement weather is expected and notify families earlier so they can make necessary adjustments.
Virtual instruction on inclement weather days will follow the same virtual schedule that has been in place for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year. Students will be expected to log in to each of their classes and attendance will be recorded, according to the announcement.
“To provide consistency and remain aligned to current virtual instruction schedules, instruction will be synchronous on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and asynchronous on Friday,” it states.