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No more snow days? New Virginia law gives schools the option to go virtual instead

Students are stepping into their classrooms for the fall, but a new state law is keeping virtual learning days in play.

NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The above video is on file from August 17, 2021.

Students are stepping into their schools and actual classrooms for the fall semester, but a new state law in Virginia is keeping virtual learning days in the mix.

The law gives school divisions the option to call a virtual learning day when severe weather or an emergency makes it necessary to close schools.

Virtual days could be substituted for snow days or used for unexpected situations, including a broken HVAC system.

The Virginia Department of Education is working to approve division guidelines. A spokesperson said before declaring a virtual day, school leaders would need to check off multiple boxes like making sure students had power and materials to learn, access to meals, and more.

Jenn Minter, who lives in Newport News, is the mother of two. She hopes her school division won’t pass on coveted snow days.

“They will be sitting at their computer, looking outside, wanting to play in the snow, instead of focusing on their schoolwork anyways,” Minter said.

Katie Brinson of Virginia Beach doesn’t mind her son hopping online if schools close.

“The last year and a half of his education has been really disrupted, so the more he is able to get on and learn, I am cool with it,” Brinson said.

School divisions would need to make sure students in special programs have support. Annie Earls said her daughter has autism and learns best in the classroom.

“Snow days, understandable,” Earls said. “But using virtual days and saying they are equitable for all learners on days that maybe we could have been in the classroom is a different story because kids that have autism or other needs that cannot be met over a computer, the word equity is just not true.”

Virginia Beach Education Association President Kathleen Slinde said teachers would need advanced notice.

“If teachers are at home and weather changes quickly, they won’t be prepared to go virtually, Slinde said. “So probably if it were an inclement weather day, it would remain an inclement weather day.”

No matter what, Minter said her kids will still turn their pajamas inside out in hopes of a snow day this winter.

“If we had tons of snow days it would be one thing, but we are so limited on our snow days, let the kids have some fun,” Minter said.

A spokesperson for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools told 13News Now leaders will present a plan to the board this fall. A spokeswoman for Hampton City Schools said if it gets advanced notice of weather, virtual days may occur. Portsmouth Public Schools' spokeswoman said this is an ongoing conversation with the state.