No more snow days? Some schools learned remotely instead of closing

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — School was canceled for several districts across our area Tuesday due to icy roads from the winter storm that swept through the Carolinas Sunday.

While some schools didn’t have class, Channel 9 learned others switched to remote learning. A big question many have is if it would be ideal for schools to learn remotely to prevent them from using holidays as makeup days.

In a sense, students in Gaston County go home every day with their classrooms. They have to take Chromebooks home in case they suddenly learn they have to quarantine while they are at home.

Some parents and teachers told Channel 9 that is a window of opportunity that could be helpful right now.

One of those parents is Ashley LaBell, who pointed to the roads in her neighborhood near Bessemer City. She said her daughters have already missed one day of school, and she believes these roads aren’t safe enough to try to make it to class Wednesday morning.

“Oh my God, it’s scares me,” LaBell said. “I’m already scared enough and nervous having a teenage driver. Then on top of all this -- there’s no way.”

She said school buses can’t safely navigate through rural roads.

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“These streets don’t get plowed. They don’t get salted,” she said. “So we are up here struggling trying to get out.”

She worries that means many students in rural areas across the region won’t make it to school Wednesday. But many of them, including her two daughters in high school, have learning tools with them. The tools include the Chromebooks and devices given to so many children when COVID made in-person learning hazardous.

“Now it seems a lot easier doing virtual instead of getting up and going to school,” LaBell said.

She wonders why there are no options for learning virtually with them now -- a thought echoed by Gaston County’s Association of Educators President, Pam Miller.

“I really think it was a missed opportunity to get kids back into the swing of learning,” Miller said over the phone.

She said so many students fell far behind because COVID forced them out of school and they have barely been back a week since the Christmas break.

“Every minute that I have with my students, every minute that they could be learning is precious,” she said.

Almost all of the schools in the region decided to take a snow day instead of switching to electronic learning, except for two: Fort Mill and Rock Hill school districts. Channel 9 has reached out to several of them through email.

A Rowan County Schools representative said, “There will be plenty of options for students to go remotely in the future . . .” but they decided Tuesday would be “an old-fashioned snow day.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools made the decision to close schools Tuesday. They provided the following statement to Channel 9 about their decision:

“CMS has the option to transition schools to remote learning due to severe weather. District leaders made the decision to close schools for students today because staff would rather provide in-person learning for all students and we can do so with a make-up day. Also, while principals instructed students and families to prepare with devices at the end of last week, CMS was concerned that a small percentage of students might not have had sufficient time to access devices for connectivity to remote learning.

“District staff is monitoring the weather forecast and speaking with law enforcement and transportation officials. We will make a decision about school on Friday when forecasts become clearer in terms of the likelihood of winter weather and potential accumulation of snow or ice.”

(WATCH BELOW: NYC schools to no longer have snow days)