During the height of the global pandemic, people all around the world had to find creative ways to continue to work, go to school, and teach. A lot of people found ways to get all of their work done from home, including students. From elementary students to seniors in college, "virtual learning" became a way for education to continue while "socially distancing."

In 2023, you'll find students all across the state of Iowa back in school and learning in person. The occasional exception to that is when severe winter weather hits. Nearly every school in Eastern Iowa was closed yesterday (2-24) and yet some schools still gave students the option to learn.

Unsplash - Annie Spratt
Unsplash - Annie Spratt

Jay Mathis is the Allamakee Community School District Superintendent and their school district put plans in place for occasions like this. According to KCRG, the district has built extra days into its schedule for occasions like yesterday (Feb 22). When school is canceled, they give the option for students to attend class from home. Students are not required to attend and attendance is not taken during these virtual learning days.

He told KCRG,

Our school board is supportive of this, and our staff is supportive. It’s worked well for us, and we do not count those hours as hours of instruction towards our minimum 1,080 hours.

One caveat of these optional virtual learning days is that Iowa has a law that does not allow schools to count these days toward the required instructional hours for the year, according to KCRG. For our neighbors to the east, that's not the case. Illinois does allow schools to count virtual learning days for their required minimum hours.

Tim Vincent is the Superintendent of Galena schools and he told KCRG, students enjoy this option.

Students kind of look at it as a novelty right now, they understand the expectations at this point, and we have very high attendance for it.

Other than giving Iowa students something to do during the day, I couldn't help but wonder "what's the point of attending these optional days in Iowa? If they don't count, why would I bother signing onto my laptop and attending?" Unless I had a parent who told me I had to, I would've just taken a normal day off and thanked the weather gods for a free day from school.

While virtual learning days do not count for Allamakee school hour requirements, they do count for Iowa teachers. KCRG reports, "virtual learning days do count towards the number of days teachers are contracted for, which helps keep them from having to make those up in the summer after school gets out."

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