Snow days force teachers to make changes

Kent County

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — As West Michigan deals with another round of severe winter weather, students and parents are dealing with another round of snow days.

Rockford Public Schools is going on 13 snow days and counting and has already taken away one optional day off, but that doesn’t make up for what the students have missed in class. Teachers are struggling to keep up with the missed instruction time while keeping their lesson plans on track.

“Just when we get back and start to establish a rhythm, we’re gone again,” Advanced Placement language arts teacher Dan Modderman said, pointing out that AP exams won’t wait.

His students have managed to start presentations that were supposed to happen two weeks ago, and he said that went well. He will continue to communicate with the students through their school messaging system in the event of more snow days.

Kristyn Lombardo teaches French and says the biggest challenge is the lack of continuity.

“Making sure that not only are (the students) understanding new material, but also the thread of old curriculum and the new stuff is all still coming together, which is something we deal with all the time but now it’s even harder when we are not seeing them for a week or more at a time,” she explained.

English teacher Lisa Avram has been teaching for 26 years and said she has never dealt with a situation like this. She has tried to stay proactive with her students. Last week, she told them on Monday that it looked as though they may have a few days off and explained what she expected them to have done when they returned to class, whatever day that may be. She took the same approach this week.

“So today (Monday), I said, ‘Odds are we’re not going to have a full week again,’ so I laid out how I’m tweaking (the lesson plan),” she said. “You just have to kind of roll with the punches and make it work, be flexible. I told the kids, ‘Here’s what we’re going to change. This is my goal.’ So instead of doing a big paper, we’re doing the very basics so that I know they know how to do it.”

Rockford High School Principal Dan Zang said the school has already extended the second trimester by a week to accommodate the lost days of instruction, but he expects difficulty in the third trimester due to that mandated testing window for AP classes. The graduation ceremony is set for June 4 at the DeltaPlex and can’t be rescheduled.

Zang said the situation is unprecedented and the district will likely have more challenges this winter. For now, he said, it is waiting to see how the state will proceed with waivers and snow days during states of emergency before making plans to extend the school year.

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