Schoolwork goes on despite challenges

Let it snow . . . Snow day enthusiasts Lee Stream School (back from left) teacher Wendy Langley, office adminis trator Jenny Nichol, prin cipal Rachelle Moors and pupils (front from left) Charlie Nichol, Hunter Ruxton and Jess Horton (all 10). PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Pupils and staff at one Dunedin school have had more practice at self-isolating than most.

Snow constantly closes Lee Stream School but the way the pupils continue to learn when stuck at home has changed.

The primary school, which has 32 pupils and two classrooms, lies about 15km northwest of Outram, on State Highway 87.

Lee Stream School office administrator Jenny Nichol said she had lived in the district before she started working in 1984.

She continues to update a list started in 1970 which lists the number of days the school has been closed due to snow.

Lee Stream School remains covered in snow when the school reopens in 2013. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The most days the school was closed due to snow since 1970 was 14.5 in 1972.

“It was the year before I got married. The snow took down the power and the telephone poles — it was huge.”

Snow closed the school for 10 days in 1988 and 1992 and for nine days in 2009.

Two days was the shortest duration for the school to have been closed due to snow in any year since records began.

The school had been closed nine times for two days in a year including the past three years.

At the beginning of term two, pupil used to be given “snow folders” — a manila folder filled with schoolwork for children to complete at home.

Now the pupils stuck at home on snow days were expected to complete schoolwork ona computer.

School principal and teacher Rachelle Moors said on the first snow day at home, pupils were allowed to play.

For any consecutive snow days, the expectation was for them to do schoolwork.

School teacher Wendy Langley said she assigned work in an online document for pupils to work through.

The work related to a topic pupils had been learning about, she said.

Pupils could communicate with each other and their teacher online, she said.

“We aren’t lying in bed having a day off. We are interacting with the kids.’’

Pupils as young as 5 were able work the technology, she said.

The technology was fantastic because teachers could mark the schoolwork remotely, she said.

The snow folders had to be marked when the pupils returned to school, she said.

“I was here for hours after school marking. I don’t have that any more, which is quite nice.”

Snowstorms had stopped pupils being able to access the internet because the technology had failed before when snow had filled satellite dishes.

“There’s nothing you can do — it’s the same as the dog eating your homework, isn’t it?”

Internet outages were rarer now as internet coverage across the district had improved, she said.

Pupil Hunter Ruxton said a pupil leaving homework at school on a snow day was a thing of the past.

The online homework meant you did not have to keep track of where you left your homework.

“If you forget it, it doesn’t matter.”

Pupil Charlie Nichol said at home on his family’s sheep and beef farm on a snow day, it was “tempting to go sledging instead” of doing schoolwork online.

Sledding had to wait for when the schoolwork and other chores on the farm, such as feeding out, were done.

Pupil Jess Horton said she would be disappointed if winter passed and there had not been a snow day.

Mrs Nichol said there was a widely held belief snow closed the school more often than any other school in New Zealand.

“They say that but I don’t know if we are.”

Mrs Langley said she expected the school to be among the top three schools for the most snow closures.

Schools in Mount Cook or the Rangipo Desert, in the North Island, would be contenders, she said.