Portland Public Schools survey backs remote learning over snow days

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Results of a survey conducted by the Portland Public Schools show a majority of school parents support remote instruction as an alternative to traditional snow days.

Responses to the survey were discussed at the Feb. 15 School Board meeting, where board members noted there had been positive and negative reactions from parents and staff about a remote learning day on Jan. 31.

Portland Public Schools logoThe most pushback in the survey against remote days came from parents of elementary school students, who also made up the largest portion of the more than 1,000 respondents.

But with three traditional snow days already used, the School Department now plans to go with remote instruction on future days when the weather would otherwise force schools to be closed.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said the recommendation that came out of the survey was “to learn from what we’ve seen and make adjustments to that going forward.”

Those adjustments include a more structured schedule for elementary schools, with more live instruction and work packets for those students. Botana said earlier this month that the elementary population has seemed to struggle the most with remote learning.

The last traditional snow day was on Feb. 4. As long as there is adequate notice for the district to cancel school – meaning the opportunity to send technology home with students and plan meal distribution – students will have remote instruction on future snow days.

Approximately 400 PPS educators were also surveyed, and the majority agreed with parents that PPS should continue with the remote learning plan, and additionally, that remote learning days are more educational than a typical snow day. 

Student data support that notion: a Deering High School survey revealed that 52 percent of students surveyed said they learned more or just as much on a remote day as they would on a typical school day. 

Kristin Leffler, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Lyman Moore Middle School, said she believes remote instruction is still worth offering since the systems are in place to do so.

She said she was impressed with the level of engagement she got from her students on the Jan. 31 remote day. “For better or worse,” she said, “kids are now old pros at this.”

In addition to streamlining communication and learning plans, PPS is also working to provide more support to multilingual families on remote learning days and to make additional offline learning materials available for students in case there are any problems getting online.