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FCPS fully restores snow days, ending use of virtual learning

Kids with sleds cross the street to Cunningham Park Elementary School in Vienna on a snow day in January 2022 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A flurry of snow days will be on the table for Fairfax County Public Schools this winter, though it remains to be seen how much the weather will oblige.

FCPS has built 11 snow days into its 2023-2024 calendar, and it will fully close on all of them if needed, ending a recent practice of shifting to virtual learning after five snow days.

“This adjustment aims to maximize in-person learning and to ensure equitable access to instruction and student services for all students,” FCPS said yesterday (Monday) in a press release.

Like other school districts across the country, FCPS experimented with remote and hybrid learning during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the initial rollout was hampered by technology issues, and many students and staff reported experiencing mental health struggles.

Though in-person classes fully resumed in August 2021, FCPS is still grappling with the fallout of the pandemic’s disruptions, from learning losses and a spike in chronic absenteeism to a federal mandate to compensate special education students denied the services they needed during virtual learning.

FCPS revised its snow-day policy starting in the 2021-2022 school year so that virtual learning would kick in after five days of cancellations due to inclement weather. All five days got used up that year, but the D.C. area saw almost no snow last winter, rendering the policy unnecessary.

This winter is expected to be a different story. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang is predicting that the region will get the most snow in five years, a forecast echoed by local TV weather teams.

Still, a break from school shouldn’t mean a break from learning, according to FCPS.

Superintendent Michelle Reid is soliciting suggestions for ways to keep students engaged during snow days and over winter break at FCPS says any submitted ideas will be shared on its website as “a valuable resource for students and families.”

More from FCPS:

On snow days, students will still have access to educational resources. They can utilize, complete supplemental learning opportunities recommended by their teachers, and tune in to educational programming available virtually and on public access television channels:

  • Elementary school instruction: Red Apple 21
  • Middle school instruction: Channel 25
  • High school instruction: Channel 99

Dr. Reid expressed enthusiasm for continued learning opportunities outside traditional classroom settings during snow days. Whether exploring the physics of sledding down a hill or experimenting with ratios to create the perfect mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream, students are encouraged to embrace the diverse learning spaces that abound during inclement weather.

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