Virtual Learning Day Takes Chill Out of Snow Make-Up Days

by Corey Golla
Superintendent of Schools

Oftentimes opportunities emerge from challenges.  The inordinate number of school cancellations within a short period of time is a problem for our students and staff as they work to continue the pace and flow that are important to the learning process.  We were also confronted with the challenge of accruing the allotted minutes required for our students in grades 7-12. Administratively, we found ourselves hamstrung by the standard options used to meet the “seat time” that is required by the Department of Public Instruction for all public schools in Wisconsin.  While we know that adding minutes to our day, eliminating critical time planned for the development of our workforce, or adding an additional day of school late in the school year would meet the requirements we did not see those ideas as viable solutions to meet our students’ needs.  Problem-solving is a cornerstone of improvement. Empowered to think outside the box; the concept of a virtual day was born.

Our district has had the foresight to invest heavily in technology over the past seven years. We currently issue a Chromebook to every student in middle and high school.   At the elementary level, students have access to appropriate technology in every classroom to engage our students early with rich educational supports. To assure the return on this investment, we invested heavily in the development of our staff to make the best use of technology to better engage students and ultimately improve outcomes for students.  I am confident that there is no greater platform for learning than a skilled teacher engaging directly with students in a classroom environment.  That said, a skilled teacher supported with all the potential that modern technology offers to reimagine learning is a powerful asset to learning.  These skills and investments converged in a new solution to our challenge.

It has been a long time since we have had snow days accumulate to the point that we have had to consider our options to make up time.  In that gap, the landscape of education has changed dramatically, most notably in how the technology mentioned has transformed how teachers teach and students learn.  The recognition of that change was the impetus the virtual learning day as an option to make up for missed time.  I am incredibly proud of the innovative spirit of our staff as they allowed the seed of an idea to flourish and embraced this challenge as an opportunity to showcase their ingenuity.

For one day, every teacher will re-imagine how instruction and learning might be for our students.  For one day, our students will be immersed in a non-traditional learning format that they will find common as they transition to careers and college where online or hybrid learning are common.  Many of us in the workforce have experienced continuing education requirements, onboarding and compliance training, and accredited courses through these new platforms.  I am thrilled that we can offer this opportunity for our students that meets our requirements, better supports the flow of learning in their current courses, and prepares them for life after high school where they will be perpetually engaged in a life of learning in formats we have not yet imagined.

While we know our first test will not be perfect, we are confident this path is instructionally sound. Our test on February 18 will allow us to recover the time required for our middle and high school students by the DPI.  Should the test go well, we expect to use this option in the future to continue instruction and learning as we are challenged by inclement weather.  While the time is typically not required to be made up at the elementary level, we will maintain our students’ momentum by sharing learning opportunities that support the work in the classroom at home.

Thank you for your support of our creative and skilled staff as they work to make this a model option for other districts.

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