WKYT Investigates: Snow days during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of our normal routines. School days are no exception.
Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 4:50 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of our normal routines. School days are no exception. Most students are now learning from home. Most teachers are teaching virtually through non-traditional instruction, or NTI. The change in the way we learn could mean a change to the average snow day.

Rockcastle County Schools averaged five to ten snow days a year, pre-pandemic. That number may be lower this year.

“I think that we will have to look at what kind of learning environment we’re in at the time of the weather event. So if we are already learning virtually, our students are already on an NTI pattern due to the COVID-19 incident rate obviously we would continue that,” notes Superintendent Carrie Ballinger. “So we would look at the weather pattern, and also you have to take into consideration the feeding of students.”

WKYT reached out to other districts to ask about their plans for snow days. Jessamine County leaders said they haven’t had a real snow day since the 2013/2014 school year. Whenever serious amounts of snowfall are in the forecast there, they switch over to an NTI day. Scott County does the same, using NTI days when they have to close schools. Madison County Schools leaders say even when they call for an NTI day, their employees must come into work. It’s likely they will still have a few snow days this winter. Fayette County was still discussing snow day plans at the time of publication.

The Department of Education’s Director of Innovation, David Cook, says pre-pandemic, about half of all school districts applied to use non-traditional instruction. Now, all districts are using it.

“These folks have had to use remote learning stategies, and that has changed their mentality. I have far fewer superintendents and district leaders saying to me now, ‘I want to get out of this NTI thing and never use it again.’ You don’t hear that a lot,” notes Cook.

Legislators could approve the use of more NTI days each school year, but they would have to make an amendment to the current rule of ten NTI days/year, and put it up for a vote. Education leaders think it’s possible, but they do not think lawmakers will agree on a return to an unlimited number of non-traditional instruction days.

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