Everyone loves a snow day. Not so much the 6th or 7th in a row as we’ve had in some mid-Atlantic states. And some students, more than others, feel the negative impact on education.
Unfortunately, the snow days just increase the educational inequalities between the haves and have-nots. Many teachers in my local school district in Northern Virginia are posting assignments online via Blackboard. That’s terrific — unless the student’s only access to the Internet is through the school or public library.
Many middle-class parents find some educational activity to do with their children or they talk about school projects together while they are home together for hours on end. What about the parents who didn’t have a good education themselves and don’t know how to create a learning experience at home? Where are the resources for school projects if there are few books and no computer at home?
For many students, school lunch and breakfast are essential meals of the day. That is the way our society has chosen to feed children in the interest of both their health and their education. The impact of losing out on those meals is magnified for kids when the entire family is stuck at home. Very often, their parents are paid hourly for their work, and when snow prevents the parents from getting to work, the refrigerators are sparser than usual.
As we think about ways to keep learning going during unanticipated breaks -– from snow, or illness like H1N1, or even some type of terrorist attack -– we need to think beyond just making lessons available electronically. Maybe we have school assignments available via phone links as well as Internet. Maybe we establish mentors/teachers in communities who can be called upon for assistance. Maybe we set up a resource room in low-income apartment buildings. We need to remember “it takes a village,” particularly on a snow day.