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Is the Blizzard Bag  approach working?

We’ve made it to April, and — hopefully, at least — snow days won’t be a consideration again until next school year. But this year will be remembered by many as a reasonably snowy winter with more than its fair share of large storms and school cancellations. It’ll also be remembered by some as the year when “Blizzard Bag” became a household term for parents and students alike.

For the uninitiated, “Blizzard Bags” are packs of worksheets and assignments sent home by teachers in the ConVal School District. This workaround to Mother Nature enables students to do work at home when school is cancelled, and it allows families to circle that final day of school in ink. No more messy make-up days that foil vacation plans. Some really like this approach because it offers flexibility and eliminates many of the hassles inherent with adding school days in June.

But others aren’t quite so pleased with the new approach now in its second year. (Last year was so mild, it never really became an issue).

Central to the whole notion of the “Blizzard Bag Day” is that parents act as tutors for their young students, helping them with assignments and in many ways taking on the role of teacher for the day. Yes, the teacher is available by phone and email, but the reality is that the burden falls on parents. The problem is that parents are either unfamiliar with the material, or most likely, busy with their own workday. For families with multiple children in the district, this becomes an even bigger obstacle.

And how does this approach fit with the district’s desire to become a high-performing district? Does a stack of worksheets sent home earlier in the year really move us any closer to reaching that goal? Or does it merely meet the hour requirement for a full day of school?

The district will have a new superintendent starting this summer. Hopefully this will be among the policies Brendan Minnihan will be looking at. When he does, maybe he’ll see this as an experiment that’s fallen short of our expectations for the district.

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