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Mendon Upton Piloting “Blizzard Bags” for Snow Days

Students in the Mendon Upton Regional School District (MURSD) may not be cheering at the thought of the first snow day this year

as school officials approve a pilot of a new "Alternative Structure Learning Day."

The idea of an Alternative Structure Learning (ASL) Day, or what some districts have coined a "blizzard bags," is for students to complete assignments while they are not in school due to weather cancellations. The day would then be considered part of the 180 days of school mandated by the Department of Education, and not tacked on to the end of the school year.

"The recent history of storm related cancellations [MURSD had seven last school year], the change in tone of the Department of Education on ASL days, and the reality of our digital presence has

led us to this point," said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Maruszczak during a December 10 School Committee Meeting where he presented the plan for the ASL pilot.

The district had formed a sub-committee of staff, students and parents at the end of last school year to discuss the potential for an ASL program.

"You get to a certain point in the school year that is just not pleasant for kids and for teachers," said Maruszczak, referring to the temperature inside the school buildings in late June.

For students in grades Kindergarten through 4, a traditional paper- based assignment would be sent home for completion during the snow day, while students in grades 5 through 12 would be expected to log into Google Classroom or check their emails for assignment instructions. Students would not have to turn in assignments the day they return to school, but would be given five days for completion in case extra help was needed or families were without power.

Spelling out what the snow day assignments would entail, Maruszczak said the Committee guidelines for time on learning at home are one-and-a-half to two hours for grades K through 2, two to three hours for grades 3-4, and 30 minutes

per subject area for grades 5-12.

"I think we could have a healthy debate if this is too much time, or too little time...there will always be variability as to how much a student puts into it," said

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Maruszczak. "This was the consensus for a starting point." Teachers would also be expected to be on call throughout the

work day via the internet and will designate "virtual office hours" for students and families to expect a "rapid response" on assignment questions. Students needing support from special education or EL teachers will also be able to receive help remotely from their teacher.

Maruszczak cautioned that not every weather cancellation would automatically become an ASL day. Severe storms that threaten power or internet would lessen the chance of the Superintendent calling for an ASL day.

"In all likelihood, we will probably still have [some] traditional snow days," he said. "We

will use ASL days

judiciously."

A comprehensive evaluation would be done at the end of the winter to get feedback from parents, students, and staff about the pilot. "I see this

as a step in the right direction. We are a district that has invested a great deal of time and money in technology - here is a great example of where it can

be very effective," said Maruszczak.




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