Portland Public Schools considers remote learning in lieu of snow days

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School snow days could be history, replaced by online instruction.

The Portland Public Schools took the first step in that direction last fall, when it planned for only three traditional snow days for the 2021-2022 school year.

Xavier Botana
Portland Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said a survey sent to school parents and staff will help determine whether snow days are routinely replaced by remote-learning days.

As recently as Monday, Jan. 31, however, the School Department called a remote learning day to avoid possible transportation problems after a weekend blizzard.

At a School Board meeting the next evening, a Lyseth Elementary School parent expressed concerns about replacing snow days with at-home learning days.

Drew Lessard, who has children in kindergarten and second grade, said juggling his kids’ schedule and assignments with his own work from home was challenging. He said making this routine would be asking a lot from the school community.

In an interview Monday, Feb. 7, Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said he’s heard from a small number of parents so far, and it seems that remote learning is especially a challenge for parents of younger students. He said PPS is awaiting more feedback on the transition to online classes from parents and staff who were sent a survey over the weekend.

Botana said while remote learning is clearly not a replacement for in-person instruction, he would like to be able to implement it for the occasional snow day if it’s determined to be viable.

PPS used the last traditional snow day for this school year on Friday, Feb. 4, which means moving forward there will be remote learning days instead of cancellations when the School Department is able to provide sufficient notice – and subject to adjustments as the department hears more from parents and staff.

Remote learning days are counted as student attendance days and unlike snow days don’t have to be made up at the end of the year. Part of the requirement for attendance days is providing meals to students – a service not offered on traditional snow days.

Botana said 90 meals were provided to students on Monday, Jan. 31, while none were provided on Feb. 4 and the two snow days used in January.

Making up a large number of snow days at the end of the year also reduces the transition period to summer school, Botana said.