Idaho schools not able to avoid snow days through digital means
For students, they are days of joy. For parents, they can prove difficult. For teachers, they mean a day or two off, but also a lagging curriculum schedule.
As students around the Gem State enjoy a day or two off from school this week because of winter conditions, parents might be looking for ways to care for their children without taking the day off work. Sometime in the future, with the help of technology, Idaho students might be able to avoid missing school even though a snow day has been declared.
Students in one school district in Ohio aren’t as lucky as their Idaho counterparts. Pupils in Mississinawa Valley Schools are testing out a pilot project that will allow students to login to classes when school has been cancelled on account of weather. Students will be allowed to login to a school network at their own convenience and will be given a two-week window in which assignments must be completed.
But what about those students who don’t have access to the Internet at home? Sherry Dirksen, secretary for the superintendent of Mississnawa Valley, told IdahoReporter.com that the district will make available Internet-equipped computer stations at a local fire department and at a school. According to Dirksen’s estimates, about 11 percent of children within the district do not have access to online learning in their homes.
In Idaho, Melissa McGrath, communication director for the Idaho Department of Education, says that the technology being used to connect schools and colleges across the state isn’t meant to help students avoid school days.
“The Idaho Education Network (IEN) is going to address many problems we have been facing in public education, especially when it comes to bridging the digital divide between rural and urban schools and ensuring students have access to educational opportunities no matter where they live in the state of Idaho,” McGrath told IdahoReporter.com. “The IEN connects every public high school and colleges and universities. It does not connect to students’ homes.”
McGrath says that at least two school districts in the state are studying the use of digital technology to avoid snow days, though no firm decisions or plans have been made.
IEN has been a pet project of Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna for some time. The network links up Idaho schools and universities through online learning availability and provides students in sparsely-populated areas of the state with the same education resources as those pupils in large and well-funded school districts.
Development of the network is ongoing, but Otter’s office estimated in September of 2010 that only about 40 percent of Idaho schoolchildren had access to content provided through IEN.