Life of Learning
3:30 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Virtual High School: Deep Freeze Didn't Stop Students from Attending Class

When temperatures dropped below zero in the beginning of January every school district and private school in Allegheny County canceled class. But a few schools made sure their students attended class online.

Seton La-Salle Catholic High School in Mt. Lebanon was among them.

Principal Lauren Martin explained they do anything they can to avoid having to tack on make-up days in June for bad weather earlier in the year because parents have already made summer plans and the kids are unfocused and eager to get out of school.

Martin said they are able to hold the virtual classes because every student is given a Chromebook, and they all have Internet access in their homes. Martin said teachers post their assignments online by 10 a.m. on days when in-houses classes are canceled.

"And by noon students have to sign on and we can take their daily attendance, and then the students have from 1-2 p.m. to communicate with their teachers," said Martin. "All of their teachers are required to be live online so if they have an questions they know that specific time period their teachers will be available. And then they have to submit their assignments by 5 o'clock."

Besides a little griping from students who would rather be skiing or snowboarding, Martin said feedback has been positive. She said students like being able to work from home and parents were happy knowing their kids had a structured day doing work. But Martin said these kind of virtual school days are not right for all districts. She said the age of their students, the Chromebooks and the internet access makes it work for them.

"I can't make a claim that this is the most appropriate thing to do in a big school district or in a public school where they can't guarantee devices at kids homes or if they even have access to the Internet," Martin said.

Martin said they got the idea for the virtual classes from other Catholic high schools in the Pittsburgh region. Schools called off classes when temperatures dropped below zero and wind chill values reached nearly -40 degrees on January 7.