Flexible Instruction Days not ideal, but a practical option for SASD


Frank Babicka

Covid-19 has claimed another victim: the snow day.  The pandemic gave rise to virtual learning and gave school districts practice in conducting lessons virtually.

Shaler Area School District has taken these lessons and applied them to snow days.  Now on days where schools are closed, teachers will be required to conduct virtual lessons known as Flexible Instruction Days.

They will resemble virtual learning during the pandemic, which was considered by many to be a failure. However, these Flexible Instruction Days still have benefits that outweigh the drawbacks of virtual learning.

Shaler Area, unlike schools such as North Allegheny, does not have make-up days built into the school calendar to cover for school closures.  This means that any cancellation days that Shaler Area has are usually made up during spring break.

With the Flexible Instruction Days, the school district hopes that the decision to call off will be made easier since the students won’t lose a day off of spring break.  If the district is more willing to call off, that is a benefit for the students since they will not have to stand out waiting for buses in cold weather for extended periods of time and some high school students will also not have to worry about driving in weather that can be dangerous.

When Hurricane Ida hit at the beginning of the 2021 school year, road conditions were abysmal.  Even before high school buses left to pick up students, there was already flooding on major roads in Shaler making the journey to school more dangerous.  Conditions were so bad that the district actually cancelled school for the lower grades.  The district made national news, and not in a good way, with a school bus getting caught in flood waters and needed the fire department to come out and perform a rescue operation.

Ida provides the perfect example of why the district needs to be able to quickly and easily make the decision to call off school, without needing to worry about making any of those days up.  With Ida, the district hesitated too long to call off and put students at risk.  If the district knew that it would be able to continue with a virtual day, the decision to call off would have been easier and students wouldn’t have been put at risk.

This is why Flexible Instruction Days are so vital for the school to have at their disposal.  On any day where there is excessive snow or rainfall, conditions on roads can deteriorate quickly making travel dangerous.  If the Flexible Instruction Days make it easier for the district to decide to call off, then they are a good thing.

We all can agree that virtual learning is not ideal, but the benefit of keeping students off of roads when conditions are dangerous far outweighs the drawback of having a day of virtual learning.  Plus, if the decision to call off is made the night before, teachers will have time to prepare a lesson plan and make the best of the virtual day.

In the end, we may mourn the loss of snow days for now, but when the roads are bad or the weather is cold, we’ll be thankful that we get to sit at home and drink our coffees while sorta paying attention to whatever is going on in the class.