A string of school storm days could turn into a pile of homework to keep students from falling behind, suggests a report released yesterday.
Nova Scotia’s Education Department hired Jim Gunn to explore better ways to deal with storm days after last winter’s spike in lost time. He made six recommendations, among them: Develop contingency plans for home learning, improve communications on storm-day decisions and get teachers to better use the time off.
Gunn, who spent 15 years as a school-board superintendent, said he wants provincial boards to discuss improved methods of handling monster winters like last year’s, which saw six of the seven boards miss above-average numbers of days, including 12 lost in Chignecto-Central.
“I wrote this report … to anticipate another winter like this,” he told Metro yesterday. “If we lose four or five days per winter like we usually do, it’s not a big deal.”
If students have missed a week by Christmas, it may be time to reclaim the days. Schools regularly lose time to things like fires or floods and those catch-up plans could be repurposed for storm days, Gunn said.
The growing online presence of many schools means virtual learning could keep students on top of things even when the snow blows. If teachers can make it to school when students can’t, the teachers could use the time for “professional collaboration.”
Gunn added he was happy to leave detailed planning to individual school boards.
“We’re happy we have a report in hand that we think may be of some help to school boards when they update their inclement weather policies,” said Peter McLaughlin, spokesperson for the Education Department.
He emphasized it’s a “discussion paper” to get boards talking, rather than a definitive course of action.
The full report can be read at ednet.ns.ca.
After losing a record 7.5 days across the region last winter to storms, the Halifax Regional School Board plans to read yesterday’s report closely, despite not losing a single day so far this winter.
“I’m sure the board will look at (the report) with great interest and possibly look at … policy changes,” said spokesperson Doug Hadley.
Last winter’s toll was the greatest the HRSB has seen in a non-Juan year.
Hadley noted the HRSB is already acting in some areas, such as posting a video of the superintendent explaining how storm days are called.
Its policy for catching up individual students who lose too much school time could be adapted to storm days, he said.