From Snow Day to Asynchronous Day

Frederick High School students head to waiting buses as others walk home during heavy snowfall in January

Fredrick News Post

Frederick High School students head to waiting buses as others walk home during heavy snowfall in January

by Evelyn Ward, Reporter

Students love to wake up and see a fresh blanket of snow covering the ground and finding out school is canceled. Despite a love for a periodic snow-day surprise, they do not enjoy a school year that drags into summer break.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has proposed an idea to make those snow days asynchronous learning days so school districts are able to assign work and count it as a school day while maintaining a longer summer break. 

This photo depicts a winter wonderland during a snow day last year. (Robert Blickenstaff)

In a typical school calendar, schools are allowed five snow days before summer to make up days missed due to inclement weather.

If the school district were to exceed those five days, according to the new waiver, MSDE would provide an extra three asyonchronous learning days for a total of eight snow days, before districts would begin to cut into summer break.

To most people, this sounds like a great idea. Who wouldn’t love a longer summer break? However, students at Linganore high school have a different perspective when it comes to transforming traditional snow days into asynchronous learning days.

“I don’t agree [with having asynchronous days]. I think no one is gonna actually end up doing the work, and then [they will be] falling behind,’’ said sophomore Mia Carbello.

Many others like junior Chirp Holibaugh agree with Carbello’s sentiment.

“It’s not a good idea. Why would they want to take away the days we have off. It’s a waste of our time and theirs,” said Holibaugh.

Yet, some people at Linganore do believe the proposed asynchronous learning days are a good idea. 

“I like it because I wouldn’t want the school year extended. And on top of it, my kids can still go out and enjoy the snow and come back inside and do their work,’’ said Linganore Resident Substitute Harikleia Robinson.

Not all students are opposed to the idea of foregoing a “snow day” for an asynchronous day.

“As long as it’s not over Google Meet, [it would be ok] because it’s still a break. That’s fine,’’ said sophomore James Thomas.

If this policy were to be passed, it would be up to teachers what assignments they would post, and student attendance would be tracked based on their completion of assigned work and access of Schoology, the FCPS online learning management system. Elementary-aged students will have the option to receive hard copies of assigned materials.

English teacher Damon Norko shared his perspective. “We all gained experience with [teaching during] the pandemic, proving we can indeed do work online. Most of my work is digital anyways, so personally, I would assign the same work I would in class,” said Norko.

While some members of the FCPS community have strong opinions, others such as Board of Education member Karen Yoho find themselves in the middle.

Citing her experience as a teacher for 25 years, Yoho said, “I can see both sides. On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to count on when we’re getting out of school. On the other hand, an unexpected day off can be such a gift. As a board member, I do not have a strong opinion either way, so hopefully we can find a middle ground that will satisfy the majority of parents, staff, and students,” said Yoho.

MSDE has approved Linganore’s plans for using up to three asynchronous virtual instruction days during inclement weather, along with other schools in the district. With MSDE approval, on January 11, Linganore will present their proposal to the Frederick County Public Schools Board of Education.

Linganore will not be implementing asynchronous days until after January 11 if the policy is approved. Any snow days that have occurred prior to the meeting will count as usual.

At the moment, the last day of school for students is scheduled to be Friday, June 2, since FCPS utilized one snow day already this year, meaning they have four more permitted traditional snow days.

Asynchronous virtual instruction days would help the issues of disrupting mid-year learning. It would also help keep the summer breaks longer.

Update: On January 12, FCPS issued a Find Out First email to the community introducing Learning @ Home Days. As indicated in their email, “If we [FCPS] have confidence that a significant winter storm is on its way and will disrupt travel, we could announce a Learning @ Home Day in advance.”

This is intended to ensure a more predictable end to the school year and “will also help students continue learning while also enjoying snow days as well.”

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) will be sharing updates about this policy with us on various media platforms such as, text and email messaging via One Call Now, FCPS-TV, contacting all local media outlets and FCPS social media channels.