Snow Days Becoming Cyber Days

Recently, certain Catholic schools have decided to utilize snow days by having students access their lessons from home. Instead of having built-in vacation days to make up for cancelled school, students use an online program.

Seton-LaSalle Catholic High School in Mt. Lebanon tested the idea on Tuesday, when most schools were cancelled due to record-breaking low temperatures and thick snow. The school’s principal, Lauren Martin, told the Pittsburgh PostGazette, “I think for our first day, it went pretty well. Overall, the response was very positive.”

With 510 students spread out over all four years, the school was able to provide an inexpensive Chromebook that was included with the $9,000 tuition. Each student is then able to use their laptop to access their assignments.

The teachers were required to post assignments, either by e-mail or attaching a link to their website, by 10 am, giving students two hours to log into their account. Once logged in, their progress could be tracked and monitored by the school, which doubled as an attendance tracker. Their “Cyber Day” ended at 5 pm, meaning the students were only “in class” for five hours. However, this also takes into account for the fact that the time between classes is not needed.

This “Cyber Day” idea is not new this year.While the students at Seton-LaSalle are only just being introduced to it, the high schoolers at Serra Catholic in McKeesport have been utilizing this online system since last year. Administration at Serra Catholic agreed to work with Mrs. Martin to design the program for the 2013-2014 school year.

Quigley Catholic in Baden, however, came across the idea five years ago. The former principal, Madonna Helbling, came to the technology coordinator, Mitch Yanyanin, to figure out a way to stop losing school time due to snow days.

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Yanyanin was told by the principal, “Figure out how the kids can go to school online, don’t spend any money and have it done by Thursday.”

To complete this task, Yanyanin polled all 150 students across grades 9-12, asking whether or not they had access to the internet from home. While the school does not provide laptops for the students to bring home, high schoolers are encouraged to take their classes online during snow days if they have easy internet access from home.

While more and more private schools are taking the initiative, public schools have a long way to go before they can utilize this concept. The main concern is that too many students would not have access internet access, putting them at a disadvantage. Another obstacle to consider is how the special education students would be accommodated. Also, “Cyber Days” have not been officially signed off on from the Department of Education, meaning they would not count towards the required 180 school days.