LAWRENCEBURG, Ky-- As the winter weather continues to impact our area, many of us recall fond childhood memories of snow days off of school spent lazing about our homes, sporadically going outside to play in the snow. When we would return to school, our teachers would spend time refreshing our memories on our most recent lessons before continuing on to new content. We all loved those snow days, but what we did not enjoy were the warm summer days tacked on to the end of the school year that had to be used as make-up days. The warm breeze wafting through the classroom window seemed to call louder than the snow ever did.
Luckily, we now have a better option than the traditional snow day-- non-traditional instructional days, also known as NTI days. The Kentucky Department of Education introduced NTI days long before the pandemic hit as a way to provide continuous instruction for Kentucky students, though the days have frequently been used by districts over the past two years. Why? Educationally speaking, instruction that is structured, cohesive, and continuous is what is best for learning. While they may seem nice at the time, unexpected gaps in learning (like a snow day) are not in our students’ best interest. Currently, Anderson County Schools has ten NTI days to use for COVID or weather-related reasons.
Despite some common misconceptions, the budget for the 2021-2022 academic year was set before the school year began. Thus, the decision by Anderson County Schools to use an NTI day rather than a snow day is not linked in any way to funding. Rather, the use of NTI is our way of ensuring intentional student learning is implemented in a way that benefits students and their families. NTI days are considered attendance days and do not need to be made up. Traditional snow days, however, do require make-up days to be added to the academic calendar, often pushing back the last day of classes for students. The academic calendar was created with input from all stakeholders of Anderson County Schools, so maintaining that calendar as closely as possible is a primary goal in the school district’s decision-making as well.
Simply because NTI days involve instruction, does not mean that there cannot still be a balance between work and play. Most NTI schedules conclude academic instruction earlier in the day than when students are in-person due to various reasons, one being that travel time between classes is not required.
Travis Harley, Director of Student Services, urges us to think of the choice between NTI and snow days like a savings account. To grow a savings account, it requires work and may feel burdensome at the time (you would often much rather spend that money). But, when you need to draw from it, you are sure glad you have it. In comparison, NTI days do require work and the thought of a day spent playing in the snow may seem more appealing. However, doing the work now, during the current school calendar time, allows students and families to spend more continuous time together in the summers. It is because our district understands the importance of that family time that we choose NTI.
We understand that some families have to work and have a difficult time assisting smaller students during live google meets and at times with technology. Staff is available to help during these times by emailing or calling. Daycares are open unless extreme inclement weather does not allow. If help is needed, school staff are available and want to help.
Our teachers and administrators have worked hard putting into place an NTI plan that uses structures already commonly accessed by students (e.g. Google Classroom, Google Meet, etc.) and structures that continue learning. Each student enrolled in our public schools (grades K-12) has been issued a student Chromebook; supports are in place as well for any student who needs home internet assistance or other aid.