Digital days replace snow days at Incline Village schools; LTUSD hopes to launch pilot program for 2019-20 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Digital days replace snow days at Incline Village schools; LTUSD hopes to launch pilot program for 2019-20

Washoe County School District added digital days this year as a way to continue learning on days when adverse weather forces schools to close.
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INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Sharon Kennedy looked out the windows of Incline Middle School Jan. 16 and felt that it was a good decision to have kids attend school on a two-hour delay rather than use a “Digital School Day.”

Snow days are a thing of the past in Incline and South Lake Tahoe schools could soon follow in those footsteps.

Kennedy, the IMS principal, was up in the early morning hours discussing road conditions, current weather and future forecast with personnel from the Nevada Department of Transportation.

They were analyzing whether kids would attend school on campus, or from home.

They decided by about 4:30 a.m. that a two-hour delay would be enough to safely get the kids to school, and that included Incline Elementary and Incline High schools.

Families are notified as early as possible through a “Connect-Ed” call, text and email.

“We try to be thoughtful and take in all factors, with safety always No. 1,” Kennedy said. “We made a good choice today.”

Digital Days have taken the place of snow days.

The Washoe County School District, which includes Incline Village, conducted what it called a successful pilot program last year and implemented Digital School Days for 2018-19.

The district says on its website that the program will limit disruptions and promote 21st century job readiness and post-secondary educational opportunities for working and learning remotely.

When road conditions and weather are too hazardous, kids don’t go play in the powder and take the day off like they did in the past. Rather, they open their notebooks or home computers and complete assignments.

Teachers must plan in advance and have assignments ready. They could have students take home assignments in advance and/or have lessons available to be accessed online.

The Incline schools used their second digital day of the year Thursday due to a fierce storm that struck the Lake Tahoe Basin and dropped feet of snow on the mountaintops.

Kennedy said the new program holds the students accountable and that extra days don’t have to be added to the planned end of school year.

In big snow seasons, schools have had to make up days at the end of the school year to compensate for instructional time missed.

Kennedy said there are some challenges with the program, including multiple students in a household with one computer and power outages.

“It’s with most things that are new, it’s a work in progress,” Kennedy said.

During digital days schools are closed to students and activities but staff members are expected to be accessible through school email or other platforms that can be found on the school’s website.

Lake Tahoe Union School District on the South Shore is “very” interested in digital days and has been researching the implementation process required to make it a reality, said Shannon Chandler, the district’s public information officer.

“We’re learning that the education laws are quite a bit different from Nevada’s in this respect, but our educational technology and elementary curriculum coordinator, Kelly Martin, is taking steps in the right direction,” Chandler said. “Hopefully this is a program we can pilot in the next school year.”