Just because snow shut down schools for the past three days doesn’t mean the girls at Assumption High School have stopped learning. This year, the Archdiocese of Louisville called upon local Catholic high schools to address the problem of lost time and momentum due to snow days.
So starting second semester this school year, Assumption launched a “digital snow day” program. For each class, teachers are required to have five days-worth of digital coursework available for their students. Monday was the pilot.
So, when a snow day is called, the school officers take virtual attendance. Each student is required to check in between 8 a.m. and noon to announce her intention to participate in the digital snow day.
Theresa Liebert Schuhmann, assistant principal and dean of studies and student activities at Assumption, says this coursework should take students an hour per class to complete, including what would be considered homework. Because Assumption runs on a block schedule, where classes are long and rotate throughout the week, that means a digital snow day would last anywhere from three to four hours. Students can complete the coursework at their own pace.
So, there’s still plenty of time for cocoa and sledding.
This isn’t live instruction. It’s assignments and projects. But this doesn’t let teachers off the hook. Teachers are required to have virtual office hours — be immediately available to students via email — for one and a half hours each snow day. The teachers post their office hours with the assignment and can either spread the one and a half hours over several chunks during the day or do it all in one sitting.
Assumption adopted a 1:1 Tablet PC policy, meaning the school leases a Tablet PC to each student for use at school and at home during the school year. So every girl has access to a computer, but that doesn’t mean every girl has access to Internet. And sometimes during inclement weather, no one has access to the Internet. How does Assumption account for that?
Schuhmann says students can call into the school’s attendance line and explain the situation. She knows a few Assumption students do not have Internet at home, and in those cases the school will allow the student to make up the missed work over the course of the coming week or so.
This morning, Schuhmann says she observed a digital assignment where students had to watch a video on “solving rational expressions” and then solve some equations for Algebra II. An English class did a digital lesson about online research.
The most important part of a digital snow day, says Schuhmann, is that the lessons move instruction forward. This is by no means busywork.
This school year, Assumption has no snow days built in. This afternoon or evening, school officers will need to decide whether they will use the last two of their digital snow days, should school be called off again on Thursday and Friday, or whether they should just take a traditional snow day.
“We’re really pleased with what we’ve seen,” Schuhmann says.