McDonald County makes changes to snow days, other short closures

AMI plan approved before 2020 school year began.
Mcdonald County High School English Class

MCDONALD COUNTY, Mo. – Teacher Marguerite Lepine is experiencing a lot of change. She has four years of teaching under her belt, but this year she’s gone from Oklahoma to Missouri to teach a new grade in McDonald County. All during a pandemic.

“So that’s a new thing to try too. There’s a lot of first this year,” says Lepine.

Another first this year for everyone in Mac County is that snow days aren’t really snow days anymore.

“Our kids have already lost so much time in learning due to last spring’s closure,” explains McDonald County High School Principal Angie Brewer. “And so we really felt like there are gains that need to be made and we want to take advantage of every second of learning that we can.”

Before the school year began, the district developed an “alternative methods of instruction,” or AMI plan, as part of their re-entry plan during the pandemic. The AMI plan makes it so that students will work remotely from home during short-term closures so that they don’t get behind or have to make up for missed work.

“I have mixed feelings because as someone of my age, and I’m pretty young still, I remember getting days off for snow. And so there’s a part of me that really wants my students to be able to experience that,” says Lepine. “And then I understand the other side of it which is that our students have lost a lot of opportunities for growth.”

Monday, December 14th, was the district’s first AMI day. Brewer and Lepine say it went pretty well.

“At first I was a little upset because I like snow days and stuff. But it wasn’t too bad at all for me because  I can get work done and still enjoy the snow and have fun,” says Abigail Wiseman, a junior at the high school.

“I tried to find a balance with our snow day virtual day. And try to encourage them to enjoy having time to be at home and to do something different, but also remind them that they can still take that time to be productive for their learning goals,” says Lepine.

“The elementary school teachers that I heard from, they had had their students fill up different containers and then measure the containers of snow in terms of inches. So they were still outside and engaged,” says Brewer. “So I think we’re trying to find ways to make sure that’s still not lost. But we’re still able to continue learning too.”

The change was approved for the 2020-2021 school year. Brewer says the school board would evaluate how it went this year before making a decision to move forward with the plan long term.

Notifications for parents are made on the district’s Facebook page and website.

The district is also conducting a survey with families to get a better understanding of what parents think of the plan.

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