sledding

Snow fun will remain the order of business, at least in Lenox, on days when travel conditions are too treacherous to open schools. Interim Superintendent William Cameron announced recently that the district will not shift to remote learning in lieu of snow days.

LENOX — Though the prospect of a “snow day” at area schools seems like a back-burner issue as a record-breaking November warmth continues, at least one district has taken a stand.

When hazardous snowfalls make travel treacherous and power problems possible, the Lenox public schools will suspend all instruction, including remote, for the day, interim Superintendent William Cameron said at last week’s School Committee meeting .

In view of the district faculty’s increasing adeptness in using the widely adopted Canvas learning management system to deliver remote instruction, Cameron noted, he and many other school superintendents statewide have been mulling over whether, instead of canceling school because of hazardous weather, shifting entirely to remote instruction for the day.

“Were we to do this, then we would end the school year on schedule,” he pointed out.

State Education Commission Jeff Riley has “begrudgingly” ruled that remote-only schooling can count toward the required 180 days, Cameron confirmed in a phone interview Monday. The commissioner has also left the decision on whether to shut down completely in case of hazardous weather up to local district leaders.

The snow day issue has been discussed at a meeting of the Berkshire County Superintendents Roundtable, Cameron noted, adding that he was not aware of any decisions made at other districts. “I may have been a trailblazer on this,” he acknowledged.

That’s music to the ears of Blair Dils, the Mount Greylock Regional High School English teacher and proprietor of the popular Greylock Snow Day blog, widely consulted by students, parents and school staff for storm predictions and listings of closings and delayed openings.

“There is something about childhood and the snow day,” he told The Eagle on Monday between classes at the school. “It’s an emotional, sentimental decision, an important part of being a young person going to school in a snowy climate.”

“It blossomed and has developed into a funny side hustle, a good creative writing outlet for me,” Dils said. “I’m glad people, including skiers, find the information useful.”

At the Nov. 2 Lenox School Committee meeting, Cameron cited “obvious advantages” in keeping school “open” for remote learning even when adverse weather would jeopardize safe travel, thereby requiring for a “snow day” delay or shutdown.

But at a recent faculty meeting, he was reminded that teachers’ instructional materials would most likely have been left behind at the school buildings on the day before a major snow event. He also cited a science teacher who uses lab work as part of the class.

Secondly, power disruptions caused by severe storms could affect some staffers and the district’s nonresident students (40 percent of total enrollment), even if the electricity is on in Lenox.

School district staff reside not only in Lenox but also in 22 other communities, including Pittsfield, Lee and Becket, and as far away as Valatie, N.Y., and Litchfield County, Conn. Some of them could be affected by power blackouts, making it impossible for them to teach remotely.

“There is no way I know of to determine in a timely way among our 733 students and our nearly 90 teachers who has power and who doesn’t, when deciding whether to hold school when the weather is uncooperative,” he said.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.