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Whatever you do, don’t call them digital days

By Kristen Hackbarth

Washoe County School District (WCSD) on Thursday said it would use guidance from the state’s Department of Education (NDE) to implement distance learning days rather than cancel classes for weather. 

Just don’t call them digital days.

The new distance learning policy was developed to allow students to continue learning when the school district has used up its three allotted contingency days per school year, rather than extending the school year to make up learning hours. 

Contingency days are used when school is canceled due to winter storms, wildfires or other emergency events. Most schools in WCSD have already used two contingency days this year due to poor air quality during late summer wildfires. Incline Village schools this week used their third contingency day and shifted to digital learning on Tuesday per the new policy. 

WCSD Superintendent Kristen McNeill said she was grateful for NDE’s work with the district on the plan. 

Much of the work, however, was likely done in March and April 2020 when the district had to rapidly shift from in-person to digital learning to complete the school year during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past year-and-a-half the district has improved student and educator access to technology devices and broadband, and put in place digital tools for learning. 

Those tools weren’t in place back in October 2018 when the district first tried to roll out distance learning in lieu of school cancellations. The program was called “Digital School Days” and it was a bust.

District officials reversed the policy in February 2019 after a social media rage fest, mostly filled with complaints about the regionalized approach to school delays and closures that caused confusion for parents and students and frustration for educators.

Online outrage wasn’t the only reason for the reversal, however. The policy ran afoul of a number of state laws, according to a memo NDE sent to the district. 

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