Impossible, you say? Not for the students at St. John Vianney High School, who are making up their lost snow days while on Easter break — and giving public schools a new insight into virtual ways of learning.
“A lot of them already planned European trips,” said Jane Cable, an English teacher and assistant principal at St. John Vianney. “As long as they have an internet connection, it’s OK.”
Virtual classrooms for make up days
Schools across New Jersey are coming up with creative ways to recoup a series of missed snow days.
Public schools are not yet permitted under New Jersey regulations to hold virtual classes as official make-ups to snow days. However, St. John Vianney — because it is private — is one of a handful of schools leading the way in the new online learning initiative, where students can watch instruction, hand in homework, and engage in class discussion with their Holmdel-based high school teachers.
But many public schools across the state are hoping to emulate the model in the future. As technology makes virtual classrooms possible, the state Department of Education is reconsidering the rule that defines instructional days as having students and teachers in the same room.
“We’re now looking into exploring the possibility of virtual snow days … where students could get their instruction from home, but it would still count toward the 180 instruction days a year” required under the state regulations, said Michael Yaple, spokesman for the Department of Education.
The state department held a March meeting with school leaders from a dozen districts to discuss how it could be done.
“It was a first meeting of its kind,” Yaple said.
There are major hurdles to overcome before New Jersey schools can consider permitting virtual school days.
First, the Department of Education must revise its regulations that require students be in the physical presence of a teacher. The regulations were crafted long before Wi-Fi and personal computing devices became commonplace in many homes.
Another obstacle is the question of educational rigor, Yaple said.
“It’s really more than just handing someone some homework and a reading assignment for the day,” he said.
Cable, the St. John Vianney assistant principal and teacher, uses a microphone and special software to record her instructional English sessions for her students.
In the classroom, “they get me once,” she said. “Here (online) they can go home and replay it again.”
The classroom time she used to spend repeating information that students missed is now spent giving one-on-one help, she said.
“I actually find more face time with my students,” Cable said.
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