By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4)– Late snow day decisions made by Denver Public Schools aren’t new, but the challenge of suddenly switching from in-person to remote learning is a storm many families can’t weather. DPS students were expected to attend class virtually the morning after Denver received several inches of snow.

(credit: CBS)

The students in Jessica Erickson’s third-grade class made miniature snowmen to show their classmates on Zoom. Building Frosty behind their computers isn’t how most children envision a snow day, but Erickson did her best to keep them engaged.

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“Remote lessons take a good hour, hour-and-a-half, of planning. My teammates and I were all up early this morning,” said Erickson. “We tried our best to keep things fun because it’s still a snow day.”

DPS made the announcement to continue classes remotely late Wednesday night.

The majority of Erickson’s class logged on to attend virtually. For families who need to arrange supervision for children, the later start made the sudden switch from in-person learning to remote possible.

“Just because we have the technology and most of us have the capability, doesn’t mean it is best. Teaching and planning remote is not something that you can pick up and easily transition to at a moment’s notice. It takes hours of prep,” said Erickson. “I am grateful that the district gave the two-hour delay to allow for that transition, but I truly believe a snow day for our kids would have put them first and should be the focus moving forward.”

(credit: CBS)

In a statement to CBS4, Denver Public Schools said: “Our students have already lost so much learning time, and we feel it’s important to do whatever we can to maximize academic instruction and support this school year by shifting in-person students to remote learning.”

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While some schools followed the two-hour delay, others kept same schedule.

Lauren Epps, a DPS first-grade teacher, says every student can’t be that flexible.

“A lot of families don’t have internet access. A lot of families don’t have their devices because they turned them in,” explained Epps. “I think the excused absence is just a Band-Aid to cover up the larger problem of them just having a dysfunctional policy.”
Epps started a petition calling on DPS to bring back true snow days, even though the district didn’t require remote attendance.

“As a teacher, am I supposed to reteach the lesson I just taught the previous day? That feels unfair to the kids who came to school,” said Epps. “As a parent, you should not be expected to suddenly turn your home or the home of your relatives into a school.”

(credit: CBS)

DPS acknowledged the shift to remote learning on short notice presents challenges. Epps is disappointed DPS is one of the only districts that chose to continue regardless.

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“We live in Colorado. I’m not saying to call a snow day every time there’s a snowflake on the ground. But when you have winter weather advisories, and the roads are unsafe, just call the snow day. You have them built into the schedule. One day here or there is not going to impact a student’s learning,” said Epps.

Tori Mason