'Flexible learning' helps Stewartville students, teachers stay on track

This winter Stewartville School District has had at least six school cancellations due to weather, but that doesn't mean the learning stops.

Posted: Feb 11, 2019 11:25 PM

STEWARTVILLE, Minn. - With all the school closings and delays due to winter weather, Minnesota education officials are now surveying districts to decide whether or not to ask lawmakers for a shorter school year.

Stewartville School District thinks that should be decided locally. That's because for them, a snow day doesn't necessarily mean a day off.

Just this year, the district implemented "Flexible Learning Days," where learning isn't done in the school but online.]

After 20 years with the district, Kelly Manley's never seen winter affect a school schedule like this.

"One will never forget this many snow days, the bitter cold," Manley, a social studies teacher at Stewartville, said. "Yeah this will be one in 10 years we'll be talking about, 2018-2019. This is not one that will leave our memory anytime soon."

He used to have the headache of rearranging his lesson plans, and even taking out certain curriculum

"In the past when we didn't have the e-learning days, we'd put things off or we'd put things back and we might get to a point where we lose enough days there's certain things in the curriculum we just can't cover," Manley said, "but with the e-learning days that we have now, we can get to everything."

He thinks it's a different generation, and sometimes that calls for different ways of going about education.

"They like the flexibility, they like the ability to get things done," Manley said. "These are kids who are self-driven, self-motivated, capable of taking technology, utilizing it in a way that is designed for them, geared towards them."

With the technology, it's almost like the teachers are there with them.

"We have to be available all day to the kids also online," Stephanie Affeldt, a math teacher at Stewartville, said, "so then we can send messages back and forth. I find that some of those kids are kids who wouldn't have asked you in class, but they have no problem sending you a message and asking."

It allows the school to not only keep up with curriculum, but also stay on track with the schedule.

"I remember before it was like you got a free day," Affeldt said, "but then all of a sudden once you started having three, four, five they were being added on at the end of the school year. And then as a teacher, I found that jeez you started making them up in June, you've lost the kids."

Superintendent Belinda Selfors tells KIMT it's never an easy decision to cancel school, a lot of communication and thought goes into it. She says the first priority is safety of the students.

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