“Snow Days” turn into “Know Days” in Rowan-Salisbury, Orange and Transylvania Schools (in N.C.)

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There is a little county in North Carolina that doesn’t get much national press. But Rowan-Salisbury Schools in North Carolina made a historical move for teachers in our state today. With that move they blew up regional social media posts with teachers across the state talking about what it is they have done.

The following message was posted to their website:

Jan 9 & 10 School Status

Due to predicted low temperatures over the next few days with little or no changes anticipated, schools are cancelled for students on Monday and Tuesday.
These will be optional workdays for staff with the option of working from home with supervisor’s approval.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes! Finally, a system that gets it. This has been a no-brainer for a very long time. And it is what teachers have been pleading for. Teachers work from home on snow days any way, when will they get credit for doing so?

Teachers work long and hard when they walk out the door at 3:30. Many work nights and on weekends. And many others work on their teaching job while working at their second job. News sparked about Rowan Salisbury and then news of Orange County doing the same. Transylvania County had gone a step beyond and created “Blizzard Bags” for their students, so not only teachers were credited for working at home, but students were too!

“When Transylvania County Schools need to call a “Virtual Day” students can take out their Blizzard Bag.  The Blizzard Bag is an alternative to having to make up missed days, take away workdays, Spring Break or extending the school year.  This bag contains materials to continue learning on the day they are unable to hold regular school.  The contents of the bag are intended to take approximately 4 hours to complete.  This bag contains a variety of activities to cover multiple subject areas.  Upon returning to school, the student brings the contents for the day or days.  If unable to attend school on one day, students would complete the activities for Day 1.  If out a second day, complete Day 2 activities.  If unable to attend school for 3 days the Blizzard Bag contents would be completely finished.  On the day school resumes the completed work should be turned into the classroom teacher.  If, for some reason, the work could not be completed on the day out it must be completed within 5 days and returned to the teacher in order to receive credit.  If the Blizzard Bag assignments are not completed and turned in, then the student will be counted absent for the day.  If you have questions about the assignment, students and parents are encouraged to to the teacher upon returning to school or through email the day we are out of school.”

Many teachers up north find that the fact we haven’t come to this norm simply seems bizarre in 2017! Rowan-Salisbury Schools and Orange County in North Carolina made a bold move that many of us have been asking for a long time. Working remotely has become more and more of the norm. Public school teachers have few opportunities to do this (unless of course you are working for a virtual school).

Allowing teachers the option to work from home on a teacher workday is not only historic in our state, but impressive. Especially impressive for these Local Education Agencies to be able to look through a new lens and show an astute understanding and value of teachers’ time as well as students (Transylvania).

When most people think of the benefits of remote work, they tend to equate them with the employees, not the employers. And while there are certainly numerous advantages of telecommuting for our teachers, as it turns out, having a remote workforce on snow days greatly benefits the school system, too. The teachers will indeed be more productive. Honestly, if I am working at home I am going to get much more done than working and often socializing with my colleagues at school. In addition, this will be a huge morale builder for teachers who are working under high stakes conditions with few opportunities to feel appreciated. Of course, you’d like to have your entire staff centrally located, where you can watch them work, collaborate together, and have face-to-face time with them whenever you want it. But all of that comes at price, in the form of costs for opening the building, office supplies, and equipment.  Allowing teachers work virtually reduces all of those expenses substantially!

Thanks to the counties who are forward thinking. You made a bold move today and North Carolina teachers took notice and are talking. You know what your teachers want and are delivering. You turned snow days into “know days”! Thank you for setting a precedent. Thank you for being a risk taker. Thank you for doing what others have not. Thank you for letting teachers (and students) work from home on a snow day.