Snow days don't have the same glorious meaning at Falcon High School anymore. No sleeping in till noon or playing video games all day.
Under an electronic learning days, or "e-days" program that started last school year, students do assignments and course work online at home when school is delayed two hours or closed due to inclement weather.
That happened Nov. 8 and again Monday.
Students say it's different, and they're only half sold on it.
"With a two-hour delay, it's a safer option for us because our side roads don't get plowed, so it's good for us to do the work at home," said Falcon High senior Paige Little.
But when all other Falcon School District 49 schools are closed for a snow day, it's not fair, she said.
"A lot of us feel it's a deserved day off, and none of us want to work when there's a closure and the rest of the schools in the district don't have to do work that day," Paige said.
The e-day program is from Schoology, a digital learning management system launched eight years ago and now used in 1,500 school districts nationwide, said Ivan Casanova, the company's executive vice president of marketing.
The platform allows teachers to post lesson plans, quizzes, questions, homework and accompanying materials. Students and parents can access the material.
On e-days, teachers have until 9 a.m. to submit their lesson plans for the day and upload videos, Power Points, articles, podcasts and other supplementary documents to help students complete the assignments.
Biology students might watch a virtual dissection online and then "discuss" it or write a paper, for example, and band and choir students may record themselves practicing songs and submit the video to the teacher.
Students do a normal four-class schedule on e-days and have access to teachers between 9 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.
"Some teachers use it as an excuse to get any long-term assignments done," Paige said. "Some teachers will give more work than necessary because it's a day off but won't consider we have other classes. And some give just the right amount of work for their class period."
Could this be the beginning of the end of snow days?
Casanova said he's not sure how many schools use e-days, but some states, such as Minnesota, are considering eliminating snow days for every public school and instead relying on such a technological system.
Falcon High is the only Colorado school that's obtained permission from the state Department of Education to use e-days under its "innovation" designation, said Principal Cheryl Goodyear-DeGeorge.
The status allows districts and schools to try new ways to do things. Eighty-four percent of Falcon High teachers voted to move forward with e-days, the principal said.
"They're not losing instruction time," said Melissa Riggs, education technology specialist at D-49. "On days when we have a delayed start, you have to re-teach it the next day because you're missing so many students. With e-days, teachers can still be at home in their pajamas and have the snow day dance, but you can still teach while you sit by the fire."
Attendance on two-hour delayed days is "drastically reduced," Goodyear-DeGeorge said.
"Our district is pretty large, and there are a lot of weather differences across the district and many young drivers. So parents keep their children home."
Under the e-day system, after the central administration office makes the call to delay or cancel school, parents and students start receiving notifications by text messages, emails, the website and local media that Falcon High School's 1,200 students are on an e-day schedule.
Last school year had four e-days, including one when cold weather caused pipes to burst and flood the school, the principal said.
"Rather than missing a day of school, we called an e-day," Goodyear-DeGeorge said.
All students are issued Kindles, so they have a personal electronic device on which to access Schoology. Students who have no internet or poor connectivity can either wait to turn in the work or go to a friend's, a neighbor's, a coffee shop or a library, Goodyear-DeGeorge said. They have three days to complete e-day assignments.
"Typically, it doesn't take all day," she said. "It's a positive way for kids who are into technology anyway to have an opportunity to extend their learning and not miss content."