Will the Internet suck the joy out of snow days?

No, it has nothing to do with global warming--snow days are becoming endangered, because the internet makes it possible for kids to attend classes, even when they can't get to school. School districts are under pressure to reduce costs, and too many snow days can mean extending the school year into the summer. In addition, missing too much school in winter can leave children inadequately prepared to take standardized tests administered in the spring.


Colleges and universities have been implementing online classes and degree programs for years, and now some K-12 schools are using the same technology to keep students on track, when they can't get to school. Many teachers already have websites and take students' email questions after-hours; on snow days, some of these teachers post assignments online and make themselves available to provide help. Other classes may play instructive online games, complete creative projects from home, or solve math problems on a website. Kids use messaging and social networking to discuss assignments and collaborate on group projects. Schools save money, because they don't have the expense of transporting students, or lighting and heating classrooms.

Still, the complete online classroom experience provided by online colleges and universities is not easily delivered to public school children. Advanced tools like videoconferencing are impractical, as not everyone has access to or can afford the needed technology. Those in economically challenged or rural areas may not have high-speed Internet connections, which would put them at a significant disadvantage, if there were too many days off. As for families with one home computer and multiple children: Most parents can easily envision the snowball fight coming indoors and turning into a battle over the family PC.

So, virtual learning is unlikely to replace regular school anytime soon, but it can keep kids from backsliding on snow days. Given the choice of learning at home in the dead of winter, or attending makeup days in early summer, most would probably opt for the former. And while attending school from home, kids can still lounge around in pajamas and drink hot chocolate.