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Snow more snow days: how remote learning is changing Utah education

John Ludlum snowblows his neighbor's sidewalk in Cottonwood Heights on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Schools in the area opted for remote learning rather than a snow day. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Are snow days completely dead in Utah? With remote learning so prevalent now, the answer might be yes. 

A number of Utah school districts flipped to remote learning Wednesday to keep students and staff safe during a snowstorm that packed an early morning punch. The Murray School District, Canyons School District, and a number of charter and private schools chose that option. 

Snow days rare in Utah — and maybe unnecessary

Canyons spokesman Jeff Haney says while snow days are uncommon in Utah, now that districts have an alternative, there’s no reason not to keep learning. 

“It’s been a challenge this year with COVID-19, but it has also taught us new lessons about virtual learning,” Haney said. “We have developed new guidelines for what were previously known as snow days.” 

Haney said students have taken the change in stride. 

“They are digital natives — they are learning to adapt and learn through virtual means,” he added. 

Remote learning eliminates make-up days

A bonus: any day canceled for snow must be made up later in the year, unless districts seek out a waiver from the Utah State Board of Education. But remote learning days prevent children from missing a day of instruction or needing to make it up later. 

While school officials say many children depend on services provided at school, the pandemic found most districts finding new ways to meet those needs. 

Most districts that opted for in-person instruction today told parents they would be more lenient with tardies or absences for families that choose to stay home. Haney said in the Canyons District’s 12-year history, they’ve only had two snow days, and attendance on make-up days was sporadic for both. 

During the last storm, the Provo City School District told people to prepare for remote learning with their devices, but this storm has not affected their roads as much as it has the northern Wasatch Front.

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