No more snow days? Lake schools implement AMI plans to teach during closures
In the age of COVID-19 and the emergence of schooling being taught from home, a number of normalities throughout the school year come into question. One of those normalities is the use of snow days in the winter. With the ability to teach students from a computer screen, does the need for canceling school during bad winter weather still exist?
What has now come into play for state school districts is the use of Alternative Methods of Instruction, or AMI. AMI was actually implemented into the state curriculum prior to COVID, though pandemic-oriented schedules fall under a different rule entitled AMI-X. In the case of districts such as Camdenton R-III, DESE allows for 36 hours of instruction through this method and the district board approved the use of six days through AMI teaching.
The point of an AMI plan for each district is to continue teaching when students miss days of regular instruction. Students will have the opportunity for skill reinforcement, remediation and learning through electronic or conventional paper lessons.
In Camdenton, Superintendent Tim Hadfield says they will utilize an AMI plan for short-term school closures for up to six days. If they have a short-term closure for situations such as inclement weather, he says families will receive communication from the district informing them when they will implement the AMI plan.
On AMI days, campus facilities will be closed and all students will learn remotely. Students will not physically attend classes on an AMI day and the district will not need to make these days up in the school calendar.
A similar approach will be used in Osage Beach. School of the Osage Superintendent Laura Nelson says the first five weather calls this school year utilized a traditional "snow day" approach. Starting with day six, the district used distance learning protocols for the rest of this school year.
For School of the Osage, this means that on days the weather and/or the road conditions make it hazardous to run buses and/or have students, staff, and families out on the roads, students and teachers will use AMI plans that are in place normally on Mondays.
In Eldon, the approach is to close the school as little as possible. Superintendent Matt Davis says that “students benefit most from in-seat learning not only due to the instructional strategies obtained through in-person contact, but also for the assurances of social-emotional support, positive relationships, and basic necessities such as access to warm classrooms and hot meals.”
After using all available opportunities for snow days built into the regular school year during the bitter cold in February, the district chose to pivot to distance learning rather than tacking additional days onto the end of the year.
“We believe the distance learning taking place now will be more valuable than the instruction that would be achieved in the final days of May. We are fortunate to have virtual resources available that provide individualized interventions to our students,” Davis said.
Versailles school year runs slightly longer with snow days built into the schedule. Superintendent Steven Barnes says they have also developed an AMI plan and have discussed the possibility of using those during potential long closures where they feel they have enough time to prepare.
For Barnes, the district’s biggest concern is that they do not end up using AMI and “busy work” just to make up the time missed.
“We want to make sure if we do it we do it well. As of today we have not implemented the AMI plan but we consider it every day we are out,” Barnes said.