Proposed law: Minnesota schools could replace snow days with e-learning days

If there’s one thing Minnesota students look forward to each winter, it’s a snow day. No school and tons of fresh snow to play in – what could be better? Well, Minnesota lawmakers are now considering a bill that would keep school closed on days of inclement weather, but keep class in session.

H.F. 1421 would give school districts the option to hold up to 5 “e-learning days” that would replace the typical no-school snow days and count as a day of instruction.

E-learning days would not be a statewide mandate, but rather on option for each school district. The law would require district that adopt e-learning days to notify parents and students at least two hours before the start of the school day, and teachers would be required to be available by phone or internet throughout the day.

The law would also require schools to provide resources for students without internet access, or without enough internet-enabled devices in the home.

H.F. 1421 would amend the current state law relating to the required length of the school year and hours of instruction. According to the current law: “A school board's annual school calendar must include at least 425 hours of instruction  for a kindergarten student without a disability, 935 hours of instruction for a student in  grades 1 through 6, and 1,020 hours of instruction for a student in grades 7 through 12, not  including summer school. The school calendar for all-day kindergarten must include at least  850 hours of instruction for the school year. The school calendar for a prekindergarten  student under section 124D.151, if offered by the district, must include at least 350 hours  of instruction for the school year. A school board's annual calendar must include at least  165 days of instruction for a student in grades 1 through 11 unless a four-day week schedule  has been approved by the commissioner under section 124D.126.”

If amended, the following e-learning requirements would be added to the law, effective for the 2017-18 school year:

"A school board's annual school calendar may include plans for up to five days of instruction provided through online instruction due to inclement weather. The inclement weather plans must be developed according to section 120A.414."

Sec. 2. [120A.414] E-LEARNING DAYS.

Subdivision 1. Days. "E-learning day" means a school day where a school offers full access to online instruction provided by students' individual teachers due to inclement weather. A school district or charter school that chooses to have e-learning days may have up to five e-learning days in one school year. An e-learning day is counted as a day of instruction and included in the hours of instruction under section 120A.41.

Subd. 2. Plan. The school board and the exclusive representative of the teachers for that school must agree to the district's e-learning day plan. A charter school may adopt an e-learning day plan after consulting with its teachers. The plan must include accommodations for students without Internet access at home and for digital device access for families without the technology or an insufficient amount of technology for the number of children in the household. A school's e-learning plan must provide accessible options for students with disabilities.

Sub. 3. Annual notice. A school district or charter school must notify parents and students of the e-learning day plan at the beginning of the school year.

Subd. 4. Daily notice. On an e-learning day declared by the school, a school district or charter school must notify parents and students at least two hours prior to the normal school start time that students need to follow the e-learning day plan for that day.

Subd. 5.Teacher access. Each student's teacher must be accessible both online and by telephone during normal school hours on an e-learning day to assist students and parents.