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Dadline: Virtual school doesn't mean the end of snow days

Dadline: Virtual school doesn't mean the end of snow days


Until this year, the top three items on the List of Things That I Did as a Kid That My Daughter Will Never Do would have been:

1. Make a call on a rotary-dial telephone.

2. Go outside to turn a TV antenna by hand until somebody in the house hollers, “A little more … OK, now stop! … That’s too far! Go the other way!”

3. Play 45 r.p.m. records on a portable record player.

But two things happened this school year that bumped one of those entries off the list and replaced it with another. The first was that my kid got a portable record player for Christmas and she has played a few of my old 45s that she discovered in the basement of Grandpa’s house. (It turns out that I bought a surprising number of funk singles in 1978. If you have a hankering to hear “Get Off” by Foxy, “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave or the Parliament classic “Flashlight,” just hustle by my house.)

The other thing that happened, and it’s a biggie, is that my daughter has become completely familiar with online classes. So, she can go to school anytime, anywhere under most any conditions, which means that my kid will never get to do the following:

Miss 20 straight days of school because of snow.

But I did!

I recall in back-to-back winters of 1977 and ’78, public schools in my county were closed for weeks. An old school buddy posted on Facebook last week that schools were closed for an incredible 42 days in 1978. In the country, when roads were snow-covered in one part of the county, schools closed countywide. Call it one of the cold comforts of growing up in a rural school system.

Of course, I can’t do long division or tell you the difference between subject and predicate because all those lessons were canceled due to snow. But I did teach myself the trick of “snatching” quarters by stacking them on my arm and then quickly grabbing them in midair, so it wasn’t like I wasted all those snow days. And I showed my daughter how to do that trick, too, I proudly add.

She won’t miss a lot of snow days though. Part of that is because we live in a city that does not cancel school frequently, although my daughter did get a couple of days off in the past week and a half. She sledded for hours with friends, built a snowman and did all the other cold-weather fun we’ve all done.

But even if we were socked with a blizzard that would immobilize the region for days, she won’t miss much school, thanks to the internet. Like I said, virtual school can be attended anywhere.

The Virginia General Assembly will consider a bill that will expand schools’ ability to hold virtual classes, when this infernal pandemic ever ends. Some people feared that would mean the end of snow days for children, but bill sponsors say that’s not the intent. Children will still have their days to frolic in the snow. They won’t, however, miss more than a few days at a time.

The bill will be helpful to those rural counties, like where I grew up, where students would have to make up missed time if schools are closed multiple days. Unfortunately, some of those counties have the worst internet access, which could cause an avalanche of problems for children who not only don’t get to take a snow day, but also cannot log on to high-speed internet from their homes.

If the bill becomes law, it could be an educational boon to students who otherwise would have nothing to do on cold, snowy days than play video games and eat Froot Loops. Schools should be able to complete their required 180 days of instruction.

Still, I hope they get a few snow days here and there. Back when I was a kid, hearing the school closing announcements on the radio was positively thrilling. Today’s robo-calls aren’t quite as exciting, but they still provide a jolt of joy.

And if your children are bored and are complaining about having nothing to do, make them look up “coin snatching” on the internet. That is, if the internet is working at your house and your kids are not in the middle of a virtual school day.

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Ralph Berrier Jr. has worked at The Roanoke Times since 1993. He covers the City of Roanoke and writes the Dadline parenting column.

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