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New option could be worked into calendar to replace snow days

 When the weather outside is frightful, students and their parents will often turn their attention to the morning news, looking to see if school will be out for a snow day. At the regular Isle School Board meeting held Jan. 27, however, the board discussed a new option for handling bad weather keeping kids from school. Superintendent Dean Kapsner spoke on “e-learning,” the possibility of students doing an instructional day remotely, via the internet.

E-learning

A document overviewing e-learning information was provided to the board, the assembly of which Kapnser credited to teacher Jen Ernest. The document defined “e-learning” as an instructional school day taking place digitally when inclement weather prevented students from being at the school. Such days had been introduced when the Minnesota legislature amended statute regarding school year length and hours of instruction in 2017. Up to five days were allowed and would count as instructional days towards the school’s total hours of instruction. Kapsner stated that the school needed to apply for such days before the start of the school year, so fall of 2021 is the soonest they could be implemented in Isle. “I’m more than happy to look into creating a plan now that there are few districts out there piloting this,” Kapsner said.

Kapsner acknowledged that there were a number of factors to be considered for an e-learning plan to be put into place, including the need for students to have internet access. Ernest’s write-up also listed several potential roadblocks, such as how student attendance and staff hours would be counted and how such a program would function differently for the high school versus the elementary. Regarding student attendance, Kapsner mentioned the possibility of parents being able to opt for an excused absence.

Kapsner added, “It’s my personal opinion that I’d think there’d be a loss in the integrity of the learning.” However, he also noted the option would be worth pursuing if it could help avoid extending the school year into June after a harsh winter. He also stated that the tools were in place for e-learning to be a viable option.

Kapnser noted that the meeting’s presentation was purely informational, giving the board an opportunity to give their input on such a plan before a calendar was put together for the 2021 school year. It was also possible that such a calendar could include a combination of snow and e-learning days. Kapsner said he would talk to the administrative team, and the board could revisit the subject at a future meeting.

Board chair Jason Gallion stated he would be interested in staff input on the subject, “especially the teachers since they are ultimately responsible for their classes.”

Briefs

• Board officials were re-elected. Officers are as follows: board chair, Jason Gallion; vice chair, Randy Christensen; clerk, Amanda Strecker; treasurer, Ronni Schmidt; ex officio, Dean Kapsner; and deputy clerk, Kelly LaSart.

• The board approved setting up a potential opportunity for students studying French through the ITV classroom to take a trip to France.

• The Nyquist Elementary sixth grade’s annual trip to the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, planned for March 30 through April 1, was also approved by the board.

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