Lambton boards not about to Zoom away Snow Days

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Adrianne Lebert shovels snow in front of the Petrolia Library during the first snow day of the season Tuesday.

Board would only consider online school during prolonged snow storms

Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative

In a year full of disappointments, here’s a bright spot. Lambton-Kent’s director of education says students will still have snow days.

While students across Lambton are at home today for a snow day, many people are wondering that as schools set up online learning during the pandemic, if snow days might disappear.

At the Nov. 24 meeting, Trustee Jack Fletcher explained the Waterloo Region District School Board decided to eliminate snow days earlier in November. Their public school board has asked teachers to develop lesson plans that can be delivered virtually on bad weather days.

Fletcher wondered if Lambton-Kent was considering anything similar. Director of Education John Howitt says while the idea has been discussed, the region currently has no plans to follow the Waterloo plan.

“This is a topic of conversation in boards where there is a significant concern on snow days when buses wouldn’t be running that there would be staff shortages such that cohorts would have to be mixed within buildings,” says Howitt, referencing an added issue this year with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve taken a look at our human resources, we’ve taken a look at our pattern over past years of our staff situation on those kind of days, and we’ve talked with our coterminous boards as well. And we’re going to be remaining status quo as a normal year, and handle any bus cancellation days or snow days as we would regularly,” Howitt says.

But Howitt added that some adjustments may be needed if there’s a lengthy storm. “If schools are closed for a sustained time, then we would look at providing material though the virtual environment.”

“That does start to become a little more pressing in the secondary panel when one day is equal to four days. So we’ll be keeping a close eye on that, especially if there are multiple no-bus days to the same cohort or the same class,” says Howitt.

“But if it’s a single day, while there will be reach-outs and connections as there would be on a regular day… we’re looking at status quo moving forward.”

The return to school after Christmas break was also brought up. Education Minister Stephen Lecce briefly entertained the idea of an extended break in November, but quickly quashed the plan. Fletcher asked if there might be a staggered return to school instead. But the school board is sticking with the timetable of a Jan. 4 return for all students.