No snow day for most students in path of storm due to virtual COVID classes-except Rochester

Most Minnesota public schools were closed for much of the last year due to the pandemic. One of the good things to come out of the COVID-closings was the development of online classrooms to provide students a way to attempt to keep up with their course work in spite of the disruption.

In fact, online learning continues to be an option for students in many school districts. So when a snowstorm hit southern Minnesota last week, most districts hardly missed a beat. Instead of giving students already behind academically because of the shutdown an old-fashioned snow day, several districts in the path of the storm picked up where the pandemic left off and held learning days online.

But not in Rochester, the largest school district in the region. All students got the day off, whether still taking virtual classes or not, according to the Rochester Post Bulletin.

Some Rochester students are still in distance learning. Others are masking up and walking to class. But on Monday, they all got a snow day.

Rochester Public Schools sent out an announcement, letting students know they had the day off. However, roughly half the city’s student population would merely have to walk from their bedroom to the kitchen table to access their classes.

RPS Communications Director Heather Nessler said although it’s possible to have virtual instruction during snow days, that’s not the case for RPS. In order to have “e-learning” during bad weather, the district would have needed a plan in place unrelated to distance learning.

“Because we are in-person, we must either close or offer e-learning (during bad weather),” she said. “E-learning is different from distance learning because distance learning is something that the governor allowed during the pandemic.”

It seems other districts in the area are faster learners when it comes to taking advantage of technology developed during the school lockdowns.

Not all districts handled the March snowstorm the same. Byron announced it would have a “distance learning day.” Dover-Eyota said essentially the same thing, referring to it as a “remote learning day.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, schools operating on an in-person learning model can either have an e-learning day or non-instructional day during bad weather. In order to have an e-learning day, however, the district would have needed a plan in place at the beginning of the year.

It’s too soon to say whether the option of online learning means the virtual demise of the snow day. But for now the tradition revered by generations of Minnesota students seems safe in Rochester.