Dan McGowan

No RI schools have adopted snow day virtual learning policies

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Rhode Island students can breathe easy. Thursday is just a standard snow day in districts throughout the state.

But that could change for future storms if school departments begin taking advantage of a new state law that allows them to create lesson plans for students to complete at home on days when school is cancelled.

Meg Geoghegan, a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE), told Eyewitness News her office has not received any virtual learning plans from school districts. The state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education is required to approve any proposal before a district can count a snow day as a regular school day.

The law, approved by the General Assembly last summer, is designed to give districts the option of providing lessons to students at home so they don't have to make up days at the end of the school year. Districts are not required to create the snow day learning plans.

In a memo sent to superintendents across the state last month, Education Commissioner Ken Wagner explained that districts which wish to adopt virtual instruction policies must first submit their plans to RIDE. Within three business days, RIDE will notify the district if it needs any additional information.

Within 30 days, RIDE will inform the district it has placed the plan on the next council agenda. Plans can be submitted to the Wagner at any time during the year.

In order to win approval from the state, districts are required to meet criteria that includes local school board approval and a plan to communicate the information to students and parents as well as sufficient lesson plans.

The maximum number of virtual instruction days per year is three, according to RIDE. State law requires at least 180 days of school each year.

It's unclear how many districts will seek to offer virtual school days. The Middletown School Committee decided to table its discussion on the proposal at a meeting last month, according to Newport This Week.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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