Indiana is no stranger to school closures due to bad weather, but increased eLearning options have allowed more schools to avoid extending the academic year into summer.
A school year is 180 instructional days, but what that instruction looks like in Indiana has shifted in recent years to include more eLearning, or days when students stay home and access assignments through a computer.
State Department of Education eLearning Director Candice Dodson, says schools can use eLearning days for several reasons.
“You know, teacher conferences. So maybe students are home that day, instruction is still happening, teachers are at the school,” she says.
But another perk of eLearning is keeping schools open, at least virtually, in case of severe weather.
“They can then as the school year begins, and you know, next January hits and bad bad weather comes, they’re able to say this is an eLearning day,” she says.
Dodson says eLearning days can help schools avoid extending the school year if bad weather persists beyond built in makeup days. Most school corporations build around five makeup days into their calendars.
The 2017-18 school year was officially the first for the state’s eLearning Day Program, but the function isn’t totally new: it combines two state programs, allowing schools to use eLearning for instruction outside of the classroom or due to inclement weather, into one.
Dodson says the combination of the programs just made sense, since both programs overlapped so heavily.
The department approves schools to use eLearning days based on a list of criteria formed through the two former programs. There’s no official limit of how many eLearning days a school corporation can use, and that decision is left up to the local school board.
However, the department is alerted if a corporation applies to use more than eight eLearning days in one academic year.
So far, more than 200 school corporations have applied to use eLearning Day Program during the 2018-19 school year.