CHEYENNE – Both Laramie County school districts had to adjust last week after a historic snowstorm covered the area in nearly 31 inches of snow and shut down roads for days, making streets impassable for school bus transit.
Laramie County School District 1 opted to call off school all week, leaving the question of when students will have to make up those five days. On the other hand, LCSD2 held school virtually all week, with parents, teachers and students all having adjusted to virtual learning a bit more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For LCSD1, the decision to call off school was largely made due to uncertainty over how well-equipped students and staff were for fully virtual learning, Superintendent Boyd Brown said. The district used federal COVID-19 relief money to buy tablets for each student, but that technology was too new for some LCSD1 students.
“Some of our elementary school students didn’t have the devices until the Friday before (the snowstorm) happened,” Brown said, noting that the district doesn’t have a good grasp on whether students or teachers have the necessary connectivity. “I think if we have to do some makeup days, we may try to do one of those makeup days as a virtual day to give us a better idea of where that’s at.”
The district is currently in talks with the Wyoming Department of Education to help pave the best path forward in making up those snow days. Some options they’ve thrown out is holding Saturday school to make up the days, with the possibility of those classes being virtual, or adding a few more days to the end of the school year.
Even if LCSD1 follows through with the second option, Brown said graduation dates for seniors will not be moved, even if seniors have to return to school for a day or two after.
“We’ll be working through all of (the options), but we need a little bit of time,” Brown said. “We’re looking at putting out a survey that would get feedback from parents and stakeholders about what their preference would be.”
Brown said the next update will likely come at the first LCSD1 Board of Trustees meeting in April.
For LCSD2, Superintendent Jon Abrams said virtual school worked fairly smoothly in the place of snow days for this storm, mainly because the district had time to prepare.
“When the kids went home on that Thursday (before the snowstorm), we said, ‘We’re not sure, but we may have some weather issues next week.” So we sent them home prepared for it, which is very different than what happened with COVID,” Abrams said. “When we sent them home with COVID last year, their lockers were still full, and they didn’t have any of their devices. This year, we knew it was coming. We knew what to expect, and so we were in a much better position to address it.”
However, Abrams said the district didn’t initially expect the closures to last all week. Virtual learning did come with a few hiccups, he said, but overall, parents, students and teachers had become more accustomed to what virtual learning entails.
And although the snow days were subbed for virtual school in LCSD2 last week, Abrams didn’t put snow days off the table altogether for the district in the future.
“If you can anticipate it and prepare for it, (virtual learning) works well. If it was a storm that caught us by surprise, then we would probably look to make the day up,” Abrams said. “The other aspect of that is we’re not sure that the state will even have (virtual learning) as an option going forward. That’s still yet to be determined, to my knowledge.”