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No snow day this time - Pine River-Backus students will attend class online Wednesday, Dec. 14

Too early to say whether additional snowfall Thursday morning could result in another day of e-learning.

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PINE RIVER — With predictions of treacherous road conditions starting Tuesday night, Dec. 13, and going into Wednesday morning, Dec. 14, the Pine River-Backus School District declared an e-learning day Wednesday.

"After getting a weather briefing from the National Weather Service and hearing about ice, visibility and accumulation, we want everybody to stay safe and sound, so we're going to e-learning on Wednesday," said Superintendent Jon Clark said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic equipped the Pine River-Backus School District with enough one-to-one learning devices for every student, there has been a policy in place allowing for the possibility of e-learning days instead of snow days.

Six or more inches is expected by Thursday, Dec. 15, and even more for those in northeastern Minnesota

Using information from a Tuesday, Dec. 13, National Weather Service webinar, Clark said the district decided to make the call while they have the ability to plan ahead.

"We'll be making sure our students all go home with their one-to-one devices so they can be in contact with their teachers," Clark said. "Other school supplies they might need will be going home with them as well. They will be doing pretty much the same as distance learning during COVID, but because it's weather related, it is called e-learning."

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This gives the district more options to keep students home and safe in case of inclement weather without missing a day of instruction that they might have to otherwise make up in the spring.

This was only possible because of the advanced warning. It would not be an option if students had already been sent home.

"It's just too early in the year (for a snow day)," Clark said. "For Pine River-Backus School, if it's something we can predict and make arrangements for, we will try to do so. This storm has been forecast out long enough that we can make some adequate planning and preparations, but we will still do the old school cancelations if we wake up and things are worse than predicted."

The National Weather Service predicted the brunt of the heavy, wet snowfall will start Tuesday evening, Dec. 13 and continue into the early morning Wednesday, Dec. 14. There is expected to be a lull in snowfall after that.

Another snowfall, likely less extreme than the first, is predicted to follow Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.

Though too early to call, it is not impossible that Thursday could become an e-learning day as well.

"We are keeping our eyes open and keeping a watch because we saw that there will be a lull for a while, but this system is supposed to run pretty strong through Thursday night," Clark said. "We're going to keep an eye on things and see what materializes for Thursday yet. It's a possibility."

Clark said the building will be closed to regularly scheduled activities Wednesday as well.

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All sporting events for Tuesday, Dec. 13, were postponed for both the Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes school districts, including a girls basketball game between the two schools.

The Patriot boys basketball team was scheduled for a game against Pierz, which was rescheduled to Jan. 6.

A wrestling triangular in Perham and games for the Lightning boys and girls hockey teams were also postponed.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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