While some kids spend their time using old rituals to conjure up a snow day, others know that staying home just means logging into class online. And as classrooms become more electronically enabled, web-savvy schools are using "virtual learning" as a remedy during inclimate weather. What’s the world coming to if a kid can’t sit around and do nothing on a snow day?
As a school district struck by Hurricane Sandy and forced to close for days, New Jersey Superintendent P. Erik Gundersen needed a new emergency plan, reports the New York Times. For him, Thursday's snow storm was a great time to try a new “work from home” idea with his students.
He notified teachers. He petitioned the state’s Education Department to have it treat the day as a traditional school day. That is critical, because the district had already used its three allotted snow days this winter, meaning it would have to convert a future vacation day to a school day to avoid dropping below New Jersey’s 180-day minimum for the academic year.
Each student was given a full day's worth of assignments and a laptop, provided by the school. But as pervasive as home Internet connections have become, the very idea of digital home schooling highlights the digital divide created by income inequalities.
In New York State, where no district can substitute a virtual day for a snow day, Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the state’s Education Department, noted that not all students have computers or Internet access. And for students to truly keep up, he said, “a thoughtful plan aligned with the curriculum” would need to be developed before a storm struck.
But in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, where 17-year-old Alex H. Hirschberg lives, most students have a web connection. One teacher, Tina E. Marchiano, was even able to host her class on spoken-word poetry on YouTube and then foster a livelier discussion with her students online than she would’ve been able to have in class.
“I think some students got more out of it than being in a traditional classroom setting,” she said.
Alexa, who is more mature than I was at her age, is not complaining about the virtual school day, which even included a gym class requirement of shoveling snow and then reporting her heart rate. She knows one snow day equals another day trapped inside when the weather's finally warm again.
“I’d rather be out playing in the sun, in the summer, and be here now,” she said.
Image via Getty.