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Is online learning the future of 'Snow Days' in Utah?

Posted at 6:01 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 20:01:13-05

SALT LAKE CITY — After a statewide request put out by the Utah Department of Transportation to stay home until later in the day, students were still bused to school Wednesday morning on the snow-packed roads.

WATCH: ‘It’s been chaos for everyone;’ UDOT talks snow storm, road conditions

Two school districts tested out new programs with the snow day -- one for kids to learn online and the other to notify of any bus delays from the storm.

The snowstorm didn't prevent most students across the state from going to school, all except for the 34,000 students with the Canyons School District.

Spokeswoman Kirsten Stewart with Canyons School District said this was the first time they were implementing remote learning in place of a snow day -- a program made possible by the pandemic.

"School began distributing devices and hotspots to those students who needed them back in August," said Stewart.

READ: Wednesday snowfall breaks two longtime Salt Lake City records

Had they kept their doors open, Stewart said the historical trends show some of their schools would have had only 30 percent attendance.

"Snow days are very rare," said Stewart. "Going to online instructions won't change that."

Canyons was the only school district to announce going online for the day.

All other social media posts from districts said buses would be up and running.

Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District, said they kept their doors open to meet other student needs.

"Roughly two-thirds of our students use free and reduced lunch," said Horsley. "There's the notion of being able to provide a warm and safe environment for families that don't have the ability to go anywhere else."

Many districts had not sent students home with online learning devices ahead of the storm.

PHOTOS: UDOT workers safe after being hit by Little Cottonwood Canyon avalanche

Granite School District prepared to keep parents notified of delays using a bus route tracking app.

"When the bus comes into your area, it will have live alerts on the app so you're not standing out in the snowy weather waiting for a bus," said Horsley.

So far, about 1,000 of the 15,000 families using buses in their district have downloaded the app,

Both Horsley and Stewart said they believe online learning could become the new "snow day" option of the future.