Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

PVHS Regional District’s Virtual School Day Proves Successful

Thursday, February 13th, Pascack Hills and Pascack Valley tried something never before done in New Jersey: a virtual school day.

Having used all of its calendar’s built-in snow days, the district swiftly developed a plan to have all students “attend” class via their district-issued laptops.

While the district is still waiting to learn from the NJ State Department of Education whether or not the day will qualify as one of the mandated 180 days, Principal deMarrais believes “the day was an overwhelming success, not because of the technology, but because of our committed students and dedicated teaching staff.”

Students used their school laptops to log on to My Big Campus, Schoology, Google Docs, etc. to complete online assignments set up by teachers the day before.

Each teacher was asked to plan a lesson that involved teacher/student interaction using online resources. AP English Literature students analyzed Shakespeare and shared their thoughts on Schoology. Forensics classes read and responded to an article and accompanying video using My Big Campus. AP Calculus students recorded themselves completing math problems and uploaded the movies for a test grade.

The district administrative team was inspired by a Chicago private school’s efforts weeks before; however, the idea for a virtual school day had been in the works since “last year in the wake of super storm Sandy,” according to Mr. deMarrais.

The fact that teachers were able to implement a virtual school on such short notice is a testament to the district’s technology immersion. With only a day to prepare, “teachers all submitted their plan for each class to their department supervisors the morning before our virtual day.” It is clear that the past ten years of one-to-one learning have been training for a fast-action move like this.

Stories about the district’s innovative use of technology had been featured in national newspapers and television news shows before the virtual school day. It was, however, exciting when news crews showed up outside the building on Wednesday to talk to Hills administrators and students, in advance of having even begun the virtual day. As a result, many students spent the next day working from home in their pajamas, while a select few entertained cameramen from CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, and more.

The only hitch in Hills and Valley’s plan is the day might not be approved as a substitute school day. The State Education Department would have to create legislation retroactively declaring the February 13th Virtual School Day as an educationally viable day.

To accomplish this “Mr. Gundersen and Dr. Bachenheimer presented state representatives with: 1) Attendance data collected by teachers (the number of students who participated in their activity), 2) Student, teacher, and parent survey results, and 3) Links to a wide range of student/teacher work, communications and correspondences.”

In the meantime, there will not be another virtual day until the state makes its decision. Mr. deMarrais said that if “forced to cancel school, a day will have to be added to the calendar.” Currently Hills and Valley will be making up snow days during the April spring break.

So when I woke up at 8:00 a.m. instead of my usual 6:30 a.m., I put on a soft pair of pajamas, sat on the couch, and cracked open my laptop, ready for the school day.

Tell us your stories about the virtual school day. Write a letter to the editor!

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