Parishville-Hopkinton administrators explain reason for remote learning rather than snow day

Jan. 17—PARISHVILLE — Rather than use a snow day on Friday like other St. Lawrence County school districts, the Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District pivoted to remote learning under the state's "snow day pilot" program.

The move allows districts flexibility to avoid having to make up snow days later in the year in order to meet the requirement of having 180 school days a year.

It also limits the disruptions to lesson plans that snow days can cause.

"This gives districts the opportunity to save fewer snow days knowing they could shift to remote learning in the event of an extraordinary condition," district administrators said in an update to families and community members.

Schools are required to provide 180 days of instruction and, in most cases, they build extra days into the calendar that can be used as emergency days. The St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Education Services calendar has built 185 days into the 2022-23 calendar, with five days that can be used for emergencies.

In Parishville-Hopkinton's case, they built three emergency days into this year's calendar.

"When PHCS built our calendar for this year we planned on a 183-day calendar. The district chose to keep three snow days in the calendar knowing that we could also choose to shift to remote instruction depending on the circumstance," they said.

The district had already used one emergency day, which they said was considered a "non-instructional 'snow day'."

"We had the option to go remote then as well but that storm resulted in several power outages throughout our district so we chose to treat that day as a traditional snow day. Yesterday's remote learning day didn't result in widespread power outages so we felt comfortable shifting to remote instruction," administrators said. "We currently have two snow days left to finish out the year. The circumstances of the weather event will dictate whether we shift to remote learning or use a snow day. We are fortunate now to have additional tools to help navigate these unpredictable events."

If a district needs to use more emergency days than scheduled, those extra days are taken from scheduled vacation days the remainder of the year. On the other hand, if a district ends the year with more emergency days than they used, those can be added to vacation days the remainder of the year.

"Snow days are considered 'extraordinary days,' just like water main breaks, heating issues, etc. School districts would have to use planned vacation days in lieu of snow days if we exhausted all of our snow days. Emergency days are determined by local, county, and state governments by the declaration of a state of emergency. School districts would not have to exhaust scheduled vacation days if school was closed due to a state of emergency," administrators said.

In a Facebook post on Friday, they said teachers had been working with students on what a remote day would look like. All students in grades two through 12 were required to check in on their Chromebooks with their first period teacher at 10 a.m. to generate the daily attendance.

"Students in PreK-1st Grade will be marked present if they were in attendance the previous day. Upon completion of an instructional packet attendance can be modified," they said. "We anticipate a maximum of 2-hours of screen time for our students Grades 2nd-6th. Students in Grades 7-12 will have a combination of virtual check-ins, and asynchronous learning through Google Classroom."

The Department of Education had previously authorized a "snow day pilot" program during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, allowing districts to deliver instruction remote on days when they would otherwise have closed because of an emergency. In the 2020-21 school year, 126 districts reported using the program, which was extended to the 2022-23 school year.