Has Your Local School District Tried a 'Virtual School Day?'
With the mounting snow days in New Jersey the Pascack Valley Regional High School District took a new approach to learning. Instead of adding another day with no instruction Superintendent Erik Gundersen made the bold decision to utilize students' district-issued laptops as the vehicle to provide lessons.
The state department of education must determine if they approve the virtual school day as one of the district's mandated 180 instructional days. If counted the district won't need to extend the school calendar further into the summer or take away existing breaks during the spring. District teachers each have a website containing online lessons that were developed for the snow day. At 8 a.m. this morning students were expected to log on to find the activities and assignment for the day.
Students will be counted as "present" if the online lesson is completed. There also is an expectation that students communicate regularly with their teachers. With no restriction on sitting in a classroom from 8-3 the students can take as much time as needed today to finish their work.
According to the letter sent to parents, Supt. Gundersen said, "Forecasters are calling for significant snow totals on Thursday and conducting school in the "traditional" sense is looking uncertain at this time. In the event we close the campuses tomorrow, we are prepared to conduct school virtually via our student-issued laptops." The NJ Department of Education has been petitioned and seem receptive to the idea as long as the district can provide specific outcomes demonstrating student engagement.
"Regardless of the decision by the Department of Education, learning will continue throughout this week and students will be engaged in meaningful instruction. We have been in communication with the Department of Education and they are intrigued by this concept, primarily because of our ten-year laptop program and our experience in providing online learning opportunities to our students. This is an exciting opportunity for staff and students in the Pascack Valley Regional High School District as this would be a ‘first’ for the State," said Gundersen. "This is a progressive idea for a progressive district that prides itself on innovation. We believe that the continuity of instruction is important and we have encountered too many disruptions due to inclement weather this year. Our teachers have developed online lessons that will have students utilizing a variety of digital tools available to them through our 1:1 laptop program."