MCPS snow days could be a thing of the past due to remote learning

Are school snow days a thing of the past?

MCPS superintendent says there’s ‘no excuse’ for inclement weather closures ‘ever again’

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When Montgomery County reopens its school buildings — closed now because of the COVID-19 pandemic — snow days could become obsolete.

With the increased focus on providing students and staff members laptops and internet for coronavirus-era learning, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said during a school board meeting on Thursday that he “never want(s) to see” a snow day again.

“There is no excuse ever again to have to make up a snow day,” Smith said, with agreement from some school board members.

Instead, Smith said, students and staff members should be able to pivot to remote learning to avoid missing days of instruction.

When the pandemic shuttered school facilities in March, Smith lamented the district’s lack of technology available to students. Smith, in his fourth year with the district, said it was “inexcusable” that students did not have laptops to take home with them, saying it created inequities for students to continue learning outside of the classroom.

Since then, Smith has committed to making MCPS a one-to-one district, meaning each student is assigned their own laptop from the district, which they would be allowed to take to and from school, even after the pandemic passes.

As of Thursday, more than 133,000 Chromebooks had been distributed to students and 22,000 to staff members. Smith said he has directed MCPS staff to “aggressively pursue” more advanced technology for teachers.

Neither the school district nor the school board has formally said snow days are a thing of the past. A school board committee, however, will have its first discussion about the 2021-22 academic calendar on Tuesday.

Usually, the school board develops the school calendar with several “make-up” days in anticipation of emergency closures due to snow or other weather emergencies. Those make-up days, if used, usually cut into spring break or lengthen the academic year.

Maryland school districts are required to provide at least 180 days of instruction each academic year.

School board member Rebecca Smondrowski didn’t disagree with Smith’s idea to eliminate snow days, but said she would feel badly for children who no longer have the fun of impromptu days off.

“I’ll miss snow days,” Smondrowski said.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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