State gives North Hills the nod for kids to work at home during snow days

Monday, November 4, 2019 | 5:15 PM

Students in the North Hills School District will no longer get a day off when it’s too snowy to make it to school.

The state Department of Education has approved a request by the district to replace snow days with so-called Flexible Instruction Days that allow students to work at home when school is cancelled because of weather or some other reason, according to district officials.

Superintendent Patrick Mannarino said he will be ready to use the program when the second semester begins on Jan. 13.

The district’s application covers three years, which means as many as five flex days can be scheduled each year through the 2021-22 school year.

“We are excited to be able to provide quality instruction to our students on a day we normally would not be able to without taking away a vacation day in the future,” Mannarino said.

The superintendent said the lesson plans that will be used for the flex days won’t be filled with busy work.

“This is going to be quality instruction,” he said. “I don’t want to have any wasted days in education. I’m looking for these to be quality instruction or we’re not going to do them.”

The district is building lesson plans and activities for each subject area in each grade level.

When combined, the lessons will resemble a school day, and students are expected to spend about the same amount of time on assignments as they would if they were in school.

On days when classes would otherwise be cancelled, students would be required to log onto a website and fill out a form marking them present. Students who fail to do so will be marked absent that day.

Children in kindergarten through grade four will receive printed assignments that have been placed in “blizzard bags” before the first flex day is called.

Students in grades five and up will be able to access their lessons for the day using district-issued computer devices.

District officials are planning to provide more specifics about how the program will operate during the Dec. 3 board of education meeting.

The flex days already are being used locally in the Seneca Valley and Elizabeth-Forward school districts. The North Allegheny School also has applied to the state for permission to participate in the flex day program.