NEW YORK (NEWS10) – With school districts struggling with staff shortages, virtual learning has become commonplace rather than giving students the day off. In May of 2021, the New York State Department of Education extended its pilot program which enables school districts to shift to remote learning on what otherwise would be a snow day.

“There are a lot of horrible things that COVID brought us but one of the advantages is our ability to utilize technology,” says Jay Worona, deputy executive director and general counsel for the New York State School Boards Association.

Worona says schools could lose out on state aid if they do not meet the minimum 180-day threshold. “So this pilot program is not a requirement in any way, shape, or form. It just allows districts to have the flexibility instead of calling the day off for it being a snow day to call it a remote day.” 

The pilot program is not a rule school districts have to follow, he says, but one problem, if they do implement it, is the digital divide, especially with rural school districts. “So I don’t think we look at this as a panacea to be able to provide kids with an option and that’s the only other thing we didn’t explore. We need to be honest about it. I think districts would probably not consider this particular option if indeed what it meant is that we are excluding a bunch of students by doing so.” 

School districts like Mechanicville tell News10, “At this point in time we will be taking traditional snow days until such a point where we have exhausted them.”