Senate OKs Picard bill to allow schools to let students make up lost school days through at-home learning
STATE HOUSE – Schools may have the opportunity to make up lost school days through the use of at-home learning plans under a bill sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard and now unanimously approved by the Senate.
The legislation (2017-S 0101), which passed the Senate today, would require the Department of Education to create a policy by Dec. 1 that would allow school districts, if they so choose, to submit detailed plans to provide students with at-home lesson plans that can be used to replace a school day missed due to inclement weather or another emergency. Under the bill, each school district’s plan would require the approval of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education in order to count as a school day.
Under such a plan, for example, teachers could prepare a lesson that students could complete on their own at home. The lesson could involve lessons accessed over the Internet, or a packet the student takes home, and it could include related assignments. Those lessons could be completed on a day when there is no school, perhaps over February or April vacation, and would count as one day of school. Under the bill, districts’ participation would be completely voluntary.
Senator Picard said he conceived of the legislation because of the many missed school days during the 2014-2015 school year, when a blizzard and numerous other snowstorms forced schools across the state to close for many days. Some Rhode Island school districts sought approval from the Department of Education to shorten their school year by a day, because the number of days their students missed was so great.
“Being able to make up a day with an at-home lesson plan would give schools another option beyond adding days to the end of the year in June or eliminating some or all of one of the break weeks. In a year when the missed days of school are really significant, this would help schools meet their requirement of providing 180 days of instruction,” said Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland),
He added that an at-home learning day would be especially helpful in situations when only one school in a district is forced to close during an emergency, such as when a boiler breaks or a roof problem occurs. Allowing the students of that school to make up that day in this manner would keep them on schedule with the rest of the school district.
New Hampshire has already adopted such a policy, and some of the state’s districts have begun using it. There, the program is referred to as the “blizzard bag” program, since students can participate either online or with a packet or bag of work, and 80 percent of the students in the district must participate in order for the district to be credited for the day.
The legislation will now be forwarded to the House of Representatives.