Pembina Trails stands alone in saying no to snow days

It’s been 25 years since metro Winnipeg schools declared a snow day, and students in one division will have to wait a while longer.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/04/2022 (231 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s been 25 years since metro Winnipeg schools declared a snow day, and students in one division will have to wait a while longer.

Pembina Trails School Division was alone in its decision to pivot to remote learning instead of cancelling classes Wednesday and Thursday amid the severe weather blanketing the capital.

The other five Winnipeg divisions opted for traditional snow days — closing schools and giving teachers and students time off.

Aisha Walker, father of a Grade 4 student at Westgrove School, had mixed emotions to an email he received around 9 p.m. Tuesday from Pembina Trails, announcing its decision to go online.

“It was the closest thing I’ve experienced to a snow day in recent memory,” the 33-year-old roofer said.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Aisha Walker, father of a Grade 4 student at Westgrove School, had mixed emotions to an email he received around 9 p.m. Tuesday from Pembina Trails, announcing its decision to go online.

Walker’s excitement turned to frustration when he found out through social media Wednesday morning all other Winnipeg divisions had shut down, wondering why Pembina Trails didn’t follow suit.

Beyond the initial email, Walker said he received no details about what the day’s learning would entail. Unsure whether they had missed a take-home work package, Walker and his daughter logged into the school’s messaging platforms. There, they found no answers.

Walker said he later learned by emailing the school it was suggested students do reading and writing at home and teachers could be reached by email for help if needed.

Virtual lessons, schedules and assignment packages offered during the recent remote learning days of the COVID-19 pandemic have, so far, been absent from this experience, he said.

“This is nothing like remote learning — I’ve done it, It’s not like that at all.”

“This is nothing like remote learning– I’ve done it, It’s not like that at all.” – Aisha Walker

Wednesday marked the third snow day Pembina Trails superintendent Ted Fransen has witnessed in Winnipeg since entering a career in education.

While Pembina Trails (educational home to more than 15,500 students at 35 schools) didn’t declare snow days, Fransen describes the administration’s decision as noteworthy nonetheless.

The snowstorm created an opportunity for the division to leverage the remote education methods its staff and students have come to know because of the pandemic, he said.

“We thought it was time to test drive the 21st century approach to education,” Fransen said.

“We are confident that more students will be able to access their education today or tomorrow than had we kept the schools open. And no students would have been able to access their education had we closed the schools.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES “We are confident that more students will be able to access their education today or tomorrow than had we kept the schools open,” said Ted Fransen, CEO of Pembina Trails School Division.

Fransen, who previously served as a superintendent for a rural division, said in his view, snow days top the list of the most polarizing subjects in schools — apart from COVID-19.

“We have people lining up on both sides of this issue,” Fransen said.

Fransen said the division alerted staff Monday it was “seriously” considering making the switch to remote learning, and to bring their electronic devices home as a precaution. “They had two days to process it.”

Tuesday afternoon, once the weather forecast made it clear classes could not proceed as usual, the division settled its decision.

Fransen said Pembina Trails will refer to the outcomes of these remote learning days should a similar situation happen again. “We will take all of our feedback to heart on this decision.”

“We thought it was time to test drive the 21st century approach to education.” – Ted Fransen

Meanwhile, Walker and his daughter settled into reading activities, once they accepted her school’s remote learning was shaping up to resemble a regular snow day.

“We read together every day — she loves school; school’s one of her favourite things to do,” Walker said. “She’s actually upset that it’s a snow day today.”

Outside the capital, Lord Selkirk School Division schools are closed Thursday due to poor road conditions caused by the storm. Staff members are not expected to report to work, officials said.

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

MIKE SUDOMA / THE CANADIAN PRESS The other five Winnipeg divisions opted for traditional snow days — closing schools and giving teachers and students time off.
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