St. Augustine College Preparatory School in Buena Vista Township was closed for a snow day Tuesday. But students still got their lessons.
A cyber learning system lets teachers provide students with lessons online when school is closed. So while they can still sleep late and shovel the driveway, students can also do a calculus lesson, read a book or watch a video and be prepared to discuss the lesson in class the next day.
Kevin Burke, dean of student leadership, said they began the program last year when the school had 12 snow days. The Prep has a “third semester” in the spring when students go on academic trips or participate in community-service projects, making it impossible to extend the school year for a large number of make-up days.
“Because we are a regional school, we are very sensitive to how far some students have to travel when it snows,” Burke said. “After five or six snow days last year we started to have discussions about what to do. We had started a new iPad program and thought: ‘How can we use them to keep learning going when school is closed?’”
The iPad program replaces textbooks with iPads onto which students can download the books or other materials needed for class.
Burke said some teachers made videos of lessons, and others emailed material or used Google Docs. Teachers remain available through the day for questions via email and follow up in class to make sure the work was done.
“We had some students say last year they had more work on snow days than when they were in school,” Burke said.
He said the school has been using a “flipped classroom” model, in which students do preparatory work at home, then use class time for discussion and analysis, and the snow day lessons fit into that system.
Teachers are expected to have lessons to the students by 10 a.m.
James Clark, of Northfield, who teaches freshmen English and a photojournalism class, said he already has lessons planned but will also integrate current events as needed. When the school had a snow day Jan. 27, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the World War II Death Camp at Auschwitz, he sent a multimedia presentation for students to watch and be prepared to discuss.
“I always follow up with a discussion in class so I can tell if they did the lesson,” he said. He keeps the cyber lesson to about the same 50-minute time period as a class.
Students interviewed said they like that they can do the lessons at their leisure, even if they are giving up a day off from school.
“I can still sleep in,” said sophomore Cedric Battschinger, of Egg Harbor City. “At least I get that.”
Junior T.J. Reed, from Williamstown, said his teachers are available, and he spends about the equivalent of a school day working at home.
“It is very much a learning day,” he said. “You can work at your own pace, but you still have a teacher there if you need them.”
Clark’s son Benjamin, a senior, said the cyber lessons are a big help with AP classes since there is a set amount of work to get through by the AP test date.
“It helps us keep up,” he said.
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