The day Gov. Phil Murphy signs this one into law could be the saddest day ever for the schoolchildren of New Jersey.

The success of online learning during the coronavirus outbreak could lead to the end of a "snow day" as we know it. Not just this year — but forever.

Bill A-3813 was one of 26 "emergency" bills the state Legislature sent to Gov. Phil Murphy in response to the pandemic. The law would allow the use of virtual or remote instruction to meet minimum 180-day school year requirement under certain circumstances.

If the bill becomes law, virtual learning could count toward the requirement after three consecutive missed days because of weather, an epidemic or emergency conditions, a declared state of emergency, declared public health emergency or a directive by the appropriate health agency or officer to institute a public health-related closure.

A district would have to submit a proposal to the education commissioner within 30 days. Speech language services and counseling services can also be taught virtually.

Schools that do not meet the 180-day requirement risk losing state aid.

The quick action on the bill is in contrast to 2014 when Pascack Valley school district Superintendent Erik Gundersen held a "virtual snow day" with 96% participation by students and staff. State education officials called it innovative, but said it couldn't count as an official school day because state law also required school facilities be available.

Mount Olive schools Superintendent Robert Zywicki, whose district was one of the first to test its preparendess for virtual learning as the statewide closure for COVID-19 approached, appreciates the technology but doesn't want to see it replace a snow day.

"My district is 'future ready' and we are all into technology but when a snow day happens to me it's one of those miracles of childhood that doesn't happen all the time. I want my kids outside building snowmen, having snowball fights in the neighborhood, riding sleds. I don't want kids going to school on a snow day. Go outside and be a kid," Zywicki said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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