A school board in South Carolina has launched a pilot program to get rid of snow days and instead have students work from home when the weather turns treacherous. Beyond depriving schoolkids of the joys of weather-enforced truancy, the plan will exacerbate the region’s digital divide for student who don’t have internet access at home.
Anderson County School District Five will be the first region to participate in the pilot program this upcoming school year. In the past, Anderson County had makeup days tacked on to the end of the school year in lieu of days missed due to bad weather, but most kids ended up just skipping them, according to a local news report.
Students from grades 3 through 12 in the school board are already given Chromebooks to use at home, so in the event of a snow day or other inclement weather that causes a shutdown, kids will be expected to log on from home, communicate with teachers, and complete assignments.
This idea is all well and good unless you happen to live in one of the nearly 10,000 households in the county that don’t have access to internet with even 10mbps download speeds (the Federal Communication Commission defines high-speed internet as having 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload), according to Jim Stritzinger, the director of the Center for Applied Innovation and Advanced Analytics at the University of South Carolina.
This region of the state doesn’t typically have many snow days per year—it sees an average of 2 inches of snowfall annually—so this swap is unlikely to have a major impact on students without access. But the program is being tested and, if successful, would roll out to the rest of the state, where 30 percent of rural residents don’t have access to high speed internet, according to the FCC. Some of these regions, like the Blue Ridge Mountains, see much more snow during the winter, and the rest of the state has been hit by unusually dramatic snow storms in recent years. If this becomes the new norm, it has to be done with students who don’t have the internet top of mind.
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