By Chad Koenen
E-learning days could replace some snow days as soon as next year in the New York Mills School District.
During its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 28, the NY Mills School Board approved, on a 4-2 vote with Kristina Ehnert and Derek Braukmann voting in dissent, a motion to continue exploration of e-learning days in the school district, as opposed to only using snow days.
The next step will be to develop a policy concerning the use and overall scope of what the virtual learning days would look like at NY Mills. If a policy is not approved by the school board then e-learning days will not be utilized in the school district.
As snow days continue to pile up for school districts across the state, some schools have opted to switch to virtual learning days, as opposed to conventional snow days. To date, NY Mills continues to use snow days and does not offer a virtual learning option in its place.
When NY Mills School District uses up its snow days for the school year, students and staff members come back to school after the Memorial Day holiday to make up the missed time. The district also has several designated snow days be built into the calendar, like the day after Easter, which are utilized as school days should school be called off for inclement weather during the school year.
In order to protect those longer weekends, NY Mills School Superintendent Blaine Novak said the school district could implement e-learning days that would allow students and staff members to have school virtually. The days would count as full school days in the event of inclement weather.
“(E-learning days) provides flexibility for the district and that is one of the things we want to talk about when we get to the calendar.”Blaine Novak, New York Mills school School Superintendent
Novak said the school district could utilize up to five e-learning days per year on a trial basis for the 2022-23 school year if the school board wanted to see how the virtual learning days can work in the school district. He said teachers must be accessible during the regular hours of a normal school day, but the exact plan and expectations for students and staff members can be laid out in a school policy.
During the school board meeting it was reported many school districts in the immediate proximity of NY Mills already utilize e-learning days, as opposed to snow days. Several school board members said they would be interested in seeing how e-learning days could be utilized in the school district and were in favor of gathering more information about the virtual learning option.
“I believe e-learning is an option and many schools are trying it out in many different ways,” said school board member Jill Carlson. “I think we will learn as people use them how to best use them. So I think it is a good thing to keep as an option for New York Mills.”
Ehnert and Braukmann both said they didn’t feel like they had enough information about what an e-learning day would look like at NY Mills, before being asked to make a decision about the calendar and e-learning days. They both said they wanted to see what an e-learning day would look like concerning the expectations for staff members and students, as well as how e-learning days will be utilized in general.
“I would love to see how it would be done in our district before I would want to agree or disagree,” said Ehnert of the e-learning days.
The school board approved a calendar that included two snow days, as well as utilizing e-learning days, provided a policy can be developed with input from staff members.
Novak said the school district could have in its policy that all snow days are utilized before utilizing e-learning days if it chose to go that route.
The next step will be to develop a policy concerning e-learning days, which will then come before the school board for a vote at a later date.
In other news
• Acknowledged the following donations: $340 for Bandwagon from the NY Mills VFW Post 3289, $1,587 from Powerade and a $461 rebate from Viking Coca Cola, and $300 for summer rec fees from Newton Township.
• Approved a coop agreement with Leaf Lakes Academy for girls track. Similar coop agreements have been approved for other sports this school year as well.
• Approved an overnight stay for the FFA state convention in Vadnais Heights, Minn., from April 24-26.
• Approved the following appointments: Greg Esala as volunteer baseball and softball coach, Terry Geiser as volunteer baseball coach, Kenna Salo as volunteer softball coach, Jenna Baker as volunteer softball coach, Rhiana Roberts as JV softball coach, Annika Frost as JV assistant coach (pending numbers), Miranda Sazma as assistant track coach (pending numbers), Josh Tabery as volunteer track coach (pending background check), Mikaela Malone as volunteer track coach (pending background check) and William Schmieg as high school science teacher.
• Approved the following resignations: Allie Riewer as softball JV/assistant varsity coach, Alecia Wahlin as special education teacher for grades 5-8 and Wendy Schmitz as custodian.
• Heard a presentation from Jeff Rimpila