Could area students soon say goodbye to snow days?

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - It's not too often snow storms or ice cancel classes in Alabama but when it happens, it's a disruption to say the least; not just an interruption in daily routine but an interruption in the learning process.

Imagine, though, if snow or ice had cancelled classes but educators or students wouldn't be taking a day off. If instead, before the snow fell, even before the official school cancellation call, teachers were prepped, parents were warned and students had received enough assignments to fill a snow day.

School leaders around the country are tearing up their calendars to cram in more teaching time after extreme numbers of weather cancellations. Some are eliminating holiday breaks and professional development plans, adding minutes and days to the school clock or even cutting recess and opening school on Saturdays.

But a few are trying something different: virtual school days that continue learning, even while staff and students are stuck at home.

This could be the snow day of the not-too-distant future. As much as students love them, school officials loathe calamity cancellations, those days off caused by snowstorms, hurricanes, illness outbreaks or power outages. They cost time and money, disrupt the flow of learning and leave parents in a lurch.

Turns out, Madison City schools has already dabbled in the concept. A couple of years ago two school openings had to be delayed because of a cold-related water main burst.

"We asked our central office staff, our principals and our teachers to design an e-day for a makeup day," explains Madison School Superintendent Dee Fowler. "And so an assignment was made and the kids had x number of days to complete that assignment at home, so yes, we have dabbled in that before.'

Madison is also considering trying out a blended high school schedule in the future.

"The kids meet with a teacher 2 or 3 days a week, and then a couple of days of the week they do research, they do it at home -- it would almost be like a college class."

Though Fowler admits, while knocking on wood, that snow events aren't usually a grave concern here, he does see the value in the at-home snow day makeup model.

"The goal would be, if we did have a snow day, that we could say, 'okay, your assignments are in your assignment folders on the web, please complete those today, -- that would really be exciting if we could get to that point."

Madison City School Board has previewed the idea of building in two snow days in the 2015-2016 calendar year: April 29 and May 13, 2016. The school board has not yet adopted proposed new snow days.