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The Blue & Gray Press | October 24, 2017

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Snow days not expected to delay school days

BY VICTORIA MOOREsnowday1
Despite the large amount of snow days, the spring semester will not be extended.
“I’ve been in higher education since 1984, and I’ve never had a semester with so much time lost. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said University of Mary Washington Provost Jonathan Levin.
Elementary and secondary schools often have snow days built into their school year. When snow days exceed the predetermined amount, schools are required to extend the amount of instructional hours by either adding time to the school day, removing teacher work days or extending the school year. The funding that these schools receive from the state requires that the certain amount of hours is met. However, this is not the case for colleges.
“Colleges do have standards that we use for how many hours you need per credit hour but they’re enforced very differently,” said Levin. “There’s no funding model that takes money away from us if we don’t reach that standard. So we need to ensure that we’re meeting our educational goals.”
Although the university lost several days of classes due to cancelations, UMW is unable to extend the semester.
“We don’t have the time at the end of the semester, unless we did it in, what we call here, “Dead Week.” The summer semester starts right after commencement in the College of Education, so we don’t really have a time on that end,” said Levin. “So that’s why we made the decision to create maximum flexibility for the faculty to figure out how they wanted to address the lost class time.”
The amount of class time lost significantly affected many students in their courses.
“It made it tougher. We had to skip things and speed things up to cover it all. [But] I understand because I’m a commuter, and sometimes you have to close down,” said junior art history major Brandy Wachter.
Professors are encouraged to do what they can to make up for the time lost due to the weather.
“The message to the faculty has been that it is at their discretion how they want to make up for lost time. Many of them use Canvas which has the capacity to engage students even in real time. Others might want to add some additional assignments that help address things that they haven’t been able to cover in class because of lost time,” said Levin. “Others may choose to say ‘let’s try to find a time when a high percentage of us can meet together,’ knowing that not everybody will possibly be able to do that because people work and so on.”
Many students expressed relief that the semester will not be extended to make up for the snow days.
“I think it is good they didn’t extend it. The reason we are given syllabuses is so that we can know what material will be covered on certain days. We could just read it and not have to spend extra class time, for lecture, for those missed days,” said freshman environmental geology major Lauren Mosesso.
A plan is being discussed about how to deal with time lost due to weather in future semesters. The goal is to help professors and students meet the educational standards that are expected in the course of a semester.
“I think that the ultimate answer may be let’s be more proactive. In advance, let’s have a plan knowing when we have snow days, this is how we are going to have people make it up,” said Levin. “My guess is that it will involve technology. I think we are at a point where we have the means to address this, even in real time.”