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Board of education nixes snow days in Forsyth County
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Ice and snow paralyzed parts of the county last winter, leading to lost classroom time. - photo by File photo

FORSYTH COUNTY — A little polar vortex snow or an apocalyptic ice storm will no longer bring Forsyth County students’ school work to a freezing halt, thanks to a new online learning system the district will implement to recover instructional time lost during school closures.

The Forsyth County school system has two inclement weather days set aside for the current school year. They were built into the calendar when it was approved in November 2013. But that’s it. For good.

After those are spent by the fire or playing in the snow, any additional days will be for online learning.

Starting with the 2015-16 school year, Forsyth will be — to the best of officials’ knowledge — the first school system in Georgia to not have any inclement weather days built into its calendars.

Itslearning, the asynchronous — meaning not at the same time — online learning system, saw success in 2013-14 when the district used it after having many snow days, according to Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the district.

Many teachers already blend face-to-face and online learning with their students.

After last winter’s snow days — and positive feedback on the current online learning system — a committee began planning for this year. It received input from four elementary, two middle and two high schools.

Teachers can give lessons, provide supplemental documents and assign homework through the online portal. They give each student a username to monitor classwide and individual progress, said Cindy Salloum, associate superintendent of school improvement.

The system received 200 resources that teachers can use as guides and templates to create their own lessons.

Students will receive a five-day window to complete assignments, in case of power outages and to allow them to complete lessons on their own time.

They also are asked to respond to one interactive activity a day to ensure they’re not just logging in without engaging.

“It’s not just babysitting,” Calloum said. “We can still provide a high level of instruction even if we have to close school.”

Students without home Internet access are being identified and will receive “smartspots” and devices.

They will be instructed on how to use the system the first week after winter break. They will then be given a practice drill to be completed within five days.

The district has been training its teachers on itslearning over the past two years and will hold an “online learning for school closure practice drill” on Jan. 5, which is a professional development day.

The district will offer a series of parent training classes for itslearning from 6 to 7 p.m. on:

* Dec. 1 at North Forsyth High School in the cafeteria

* Dec. 2 at South Forsyth High School in the West Hall cafeteria

* Dec. 4 at Forsyth Central High School in the Performing Arts Center

Additional information on itslearning can be found on the district’s website,