remote learning

With More Snow Days, Students Lose Additional In-Person Learning Time

Hundreds of school districts across the state switched to remote learning because of Tuesday's snow.

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When Sonia Fowler's children woke up Tuesday morning, they were cheering. Their mom said they were excited to go to school after weeks of remote learning.

But Fowler had to break the news to her kids -- they, like thousands of students across Connecticut, had a remote learning day because of forecasted snow.

"He was crying. He was screaming that he didn't want to do it," said Fowler.

Tuesday's snow brought a lot of frustration for her family. Her children had to take their elementary school classes from their kitchen table, once again. The snow made them lose out on precious in-person learning time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is just hard," said Fowler, explaining that remote learning affects her entire family. When her son got upset, she had to leave work to help calm him down. "It upsets the whole vibe in our house."

Fowler's was not the only family dealing with an added remote learning day.

Hundreds of schools across Connecticut switched to remote learning Tuesday.

With many schools still in a hybrid model of learning, unexpected snow days are keeping students out of the classroom for even longer periods of time, cutting into already limited in-person learning time during the pandemic.

Norwich Free Academy joined hundreds of schools in switching to remote learning because of the snow. With pandemic challenges and weather, NFA students have spent most of the new year learning virtually.

"Those are the curveballs we are accustomed to now," said Dr. Brian Kelly, head of school at NFA.

Kelly said that an increase in remote learning days is creating two major challenges.

"The thing I hear most from parents is the concern for the socioemotional skills and the connections that students naturally make in school," Kelly said.

The second big concern is that there are some students who are disengaged.

"While there are a very high number of kids who are engaged and doing fine, we are worried about those kids who aren't as engaged and how do we ensure that they get what they need and that there is equity in our teaching," said Kelly.

In the short term, Kelly said that teachers have been doing an excellent job at adapting their teaching styles to make virtual learning as engaging as possible.

"The teachers are the real heroes here," said Kelly. "The teachers are working on authentic lessons that really go to the core concepts and skills. It is just a different way of looking at how to deliver the curriculum."

However, remote learning is creating challenges that will also require long-term solutions, according to Kelly.

“What strategies are we going to put in place next year to recover any of those gaps that may have happened because of remote learning," said Kelly.

School districts statewide are having similar conversations.

"We understand how difficult it is," said Fran Rabinowitz, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

She said that school districts across the state will conduct needs assessments to help them understand the impact the pandemic has had on remote learning.

"They will then be preparing plans on how they will meet those needs," said Rabinowitz.

She said there is no magic bullet, but the needs assessments will be a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, Fowler is reminding fellow parents that they are not alone.

"We have got to make it out of this all together," said Fowler.

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