Code Orange: Snow days in Prince William Co. schools now be live, virtual instruction days

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Prince William County schools recently announced a change in the division’s remote-learning policies for “Code Orange” winter weather days.

Instead of a virtual day of asynchronous learning — with teachers providing assignments students can complete on their own schedule — Code Orange days this winter will include live, on-camera instruction from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The school division created Code Orange days in December 2021 after the Virginia General Assembly gave school systems the ability to declare unscheduled remote learning days during severe weather or other emergency situations.

“This enables the option to continue critical learning, especially in situations in which we have inclement weather for an extended period of time,” county schools spokeswoman Diana Gulotta said in an email. “Keep in mind that this does not mean that Code Red days have been eliminated.”

The “Code Red” designation with complete school closures will still be used when the school system may not be able to ensure remote access for all staff or students.

School administrators had planned to use live teaching on Code Orange days in the 2022-23 school year but there was only one such day, and instruction was asynchronous so teachers and students could adapt to the change and identify any issues.

Last week, the school division announced that Code Orange days this school year would definitely consist of live online teaching.

Some parents and teachers weren’t happy.

“Virtual learning was a disaster,” one teacher wrote on the Facebook group Our Schools PWCS. “Flipping an in person lesson to a virtual lesson with little to no notice is nearly impossible. Teaching from home while helping my 2nd grader who has never had to join a Zoom before handle virtual learning is going to be a disaster. Just let the kids have the day off. We’ve got the hours built in.”

“I’m letting the school know my kids will not be attending any online lessons,” another parent wrote. “I’m also requesting no devices be sent home. If they are marked absent, so be it.”

“Kids need snow days,” another parent wrote.

With or without live instruction, Code Orange days will count as instructional days toward the state’s minimum requirements.

During Code Orange days, instruction for all schools begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. Students will have a one-hour lunch break, and time will be provided between Zoom sessions for restroom breaks.

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