‘Virtual Snow Days’ for West Milford Schools

West Milford. Like so many changes wrought by COVID-19, snow days have been replaced thanks to learning technologies.

| 16 Dec 2020 | 03:16

Thanks to necessary technology upgrades to provide “Virtual Learning” options for students due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, West Milford Township School District announced on Dec. 9 that it will implement “Virtual Snow Days” in December 2020 for severe winter weather conditions.

The district requests feedback from parents and teachers about this program and will be evaluating its effectiveness prior to planning for January 2021 and beyond.

Rather than the typical school day closures that many kids wish for and dream about when they see snowflakes starting to fall, West Milford students will still be able to attend school virtually on days that would have previously been a “snow-day off” with schools closed.

For the “virtual snow days”, the WMTPS District plans to hold virtual classes on an early dismissal schedule via Google Classroom and other online programs that are already in use by the students.

The virtual snow days will be held the same way that students have already become accustomed to for their Virtual Wednesday class schedules that have been in place since the beginning of the 2020 school year - through the district’s Hybrid and 100 percent Virtual Learning Programs that were implemented to address the health, safety, and educational challenges of state and public Covid-19 Pandemic restrictions.

Starting with the pending snowstorm this week, with a foot or more of snow predicted to fall in the area starting in the afternoon on Wednesday, Dec, 16, into Thursday, Dec. 17, West Milford Township Schools Superintendent Alex Anemone already announced on Tuesday that the district’s first “virtual snow day” would be held on Thursday.

Seven ‘emergency closing days’

The West Milford School district has seven “emergency closing days” that were scheduled into the 2020-2021 School Calendar (used mostly for dangerous snow/ice conditions and/or weather related power outages) to allow for the minimum 180 school days required by the State to be met in the event school closures are necessary. Early dismissal days must be a minimum of four hours of instructional time in order to count as a school day, according to state school mandates.

Despite the plan for virtual snow days, district-wide power outages, or service outages in certain areas of the township affecting individual schools, may still necessitate the use of emergency closing days.

The “virtual snow days” will undoubtedly save some “emergency closing days” from being used - whether it be within the seven additional scheduled emergency closure days allotted, or beyond the number of scheduled emergency days. School holidays, Spring Break, and official last day of school dates may be adjusted at a future date - pending the number of emergency closing days used.

While some families look forward to having “snow days” with their kids - building a snowman, sledding, building snow forts, having snowball fights, making snow angels, etc., snow day closures are often more difficult for some parents such as essential workers, who still need to report to work - snow or no snow - and often have difficulty arranging last-minute childcare.

Your thoughts

And then you have 2020 - a year like no other thus far in our lifetime. With it’s pandemic quarantines, social distancing requirements, lack of social events, restrictions on social gatherings and dining, limited sports and activities, job loss due to closures, and more... some families are just already stressed to the maximum, and are getting tired of spending “too much” time together with the same people day in and day out.

What do you think about having “virtual snow days” for school? Let us know!

Share your comments below.

The test
Here is the text of Schools Superintendent Alex Anemone’s Dec. 15th note to the WMTPS Community:
The weather forecast for tomorrow is calling for heavy snow to begin in the late afternoon.
Wednesday, December 16 will remain as a regularly scheduled early dismissal day for students and staff. In addition, SACC will close at 4:00p.m on Wednesday.
Thursday, December 17, however, will be our first “virtual snow day”. A notice was sent home to the school community last week explaining the concept of a “virtual snow day” and its implications.
A brief review:
• On Thursday, December 17, schools will operate on a Virtual Early Dismissal Schedule.
• WMHS 7:18 a.m. - 12:19 p.m.
• Highlander Academy 7:30 a.m. - 12:29 p.m.
• Macopin 7:30 a.m. - 12:29 p.m.
• Elementary School 8:35 a.m. - 1:20 p.m.
• PreK A.M. 8:35 a.m. - 10:25 a.m.
• PreK P.M. 11:30 a.m. - 1:20 p.m.
• Lessons, assignments, etc. will be posted on Google Classroom and instruction will be delivered via Google Meet.
• Therapy services, Child Study Team meetings, counseling, etc. will be provided via Google Meet.
• We are committed to this for our first snow day and will review the effectiveness of this afterwards prior to making any decisions for January and beyond; your feedback is appreciated.”
A Honeywell Emergency Alert message was also sent to district families by Anemone on Wednesday: “Virtual Snow Day Tomorrow, Thursday, December 17 will be a virtual snow day for the district.”