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What is AMI and why does it mean snow days may not be free days for play in Missouri?

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 6:31 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

Most students embrace snow days away from school to enjoy sledding and snowball fights.

“I do enjoy being in the snow," said Ozark fourth grader Laikyn Perry.

But as you get older that magic can sometimes fade away as snow becomes more about scraping car windows, shoveling sidewalks and sliding off the road.

But this year in the Show-Me State not all youngsters will have snow days off because the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has given districts the option of AMI (Alternative Methods of Instruction) which is just a fancy way of saying what some students across the state are currently doing and what all students were doing last spring when the pandemic hit.

“That a student would be at home receiving instruction from the teacher virtually," said Dr. Chris Bauman, Ozark’s Superintendent.

The snow-related at-home instruction would count as a school day and part of the 1,044 hours of yearly instruction required by the state. Districts can use their AMI instruction to account for 36 hours of that requirement, and while some are choosing to go virtual on their first snow day, Ozark will go virtual only after they’ve had four snow days with no school.

“That fifth day we’re starting to push our calendar and the time we’ve got to meet the 1,044 hours so we want to make sure we’re getting that instruction in," Bauman said. "We wanted to take some planning time so our teachers during those first four days will begin planning instruction. Now a byproduct of all that is that we’re also going to be allowing our kids to enjoy the snow and the weather.”

At nearby Nixa they’re still trying to determine their snow day policy but based on past experience officials feel confident if they decide to use the AMI approach.

“With the experience we had last spring as well as continuing our learning with quarantining students we feel very prepared for this opportunity," said Dr. Josh Chastain, Nixa’s Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. "It would not be a structured day like we would have normally and so if we can plan it appropriately we’d have a little bit of learning and a little bit of fun for that day. And it’s important to note that snow days are just a day here-and-there.”

And if it is just a day here-or-there, the Hollister School District plans on keeping snow days as a free day.

“I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole the snow day," said Hollister Superintendent Dr. Brian Wilson. "COVID-19 has really taken its toll on public education and our communities as a whole. So if we can give some sort of normal activity like a snow day we’re going to do that. But if it’s going to be an extended period of time we can do an AMI plan which we have put into place.”

And while students certainly enjoy their snow days, many of them prefer in-person classes as opposed to virtual learning.

“I would rather be in school than be at home," Perry said. "But if I don’t have school that day I would prefer to be out doing what I need to get done.”

“I know it’s fun not having to wake up at 6:30 and go to school but it honestly helps me a lot more to be in-person with somebody telling me what to do," added Maximus Dawson, a fellow fourth grader at Ozark.

“Although I think you can build relationships virtually I believe having that interaction in the classroom really is the best," Bauman said. "I don’t know that I really understood that until August 20th when our kids returned after being gone last spring and feeling their energy. To me that’s what’s been the most impressive thing about all this is that we all want to be together. We want to be here. And we’re going to do the things we need to be here.”

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