Snow Day More Like ZOOM Day

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A teacher’s view of a virtual ZOOM day setup.

Levi Bettinger, Staffer

On Tuesday February 9th, 2021, the Pine Grove Area School District experimented with its first “Virtual Instruction Day” due to a weather emergency. For PGAHS, students had to be logged on to ZOOM at 8am for their first period class, where their attendance would be marked for the day. Throughout January and February, students have also had asynchronous work days, meaning teachers must upload assignments on Schoology for students to complete, but students don’t have to attend a ZOOM meeting.  

Mr. Janicelli, Pine Grove High School’s principal, says, “I personally feel like students do better in person, and we as administrationers, definitely want the best for the students.” He continues, “Now that students have Chromebooks, it is easier for us to do Virtual Days instead of Snow Days, so we can keep the school year from extending into the summer. However, I know students do like Snow Days, because they see it as a free day off, but they forget those days have to be made up.” In the world of COVID-19, students might have to go completely virtual at any time. Having these Virtual Days instead of Snow Days, can familiarize the students with the ZOOM and Schoology platforms.

“My biggest concerns are keeping our doors open, getting teachers in front of students, and providing top-notch education. All of us here at PGASD are trying our best to keep our students healthy, both mentally and physically especially during the COVID Pandemic,” said Heath Reinninger, Superintendent.  On the subject matter of Virtual Instruction Days, Mr. Renninger said, “Participation on these days has been fantastic, as far as I have heard.” There was a rumor that has been spread around lately about the school district going virtual after the Easter holiday. “I can’t give a definite answer on that right now,” Renninger continued, “That decision can’t be made until that time comes, and we will work with the Department of Health to determine if we should go virtual for a period of time.”   

Out of the 1,600+ students at PGA, the vast majority of the student population participate in the Virtual Days. Students in the District must have 180 days of school, with up to 990 instructional hours. Virtual School Days have been used as a way for students to keep their Spring Break and keep Graduation on the originally scheduled day and fulfill the PA Department of Education Instructional time requirement. Mr. Renninger responded as “We simply didn’t have the technology capabilities in the past. Students now have school issued Chromebooks, we can do Virtual education if necessary. In March (2020) when the pandemic hit, we didn’t know what to do. We knew not all students have computers at home and we had never done Virtual Learning before so the pandemic was a steep learning curve for us as a district.”

Both students and faculty alike have mixed opinions about Virtual Learning Days. Social  Mrs. Shelton, History, said, “I prefer the traditional snow day. Let the students (and teachers) enjoy their time outside!” Students like 10th grader Konnor Barry agree saying, “I feel that Virtual Days take much more out of me than a regular day in school, when compared with a regular traditional Snow Day, which gives students some more needed time to complete assignments that are not yet finished.” However, some, like Mrs. Stolz, Math, have a different view, “I prefer a Virtual Synchronous Day in lieu of a Snow Day for several reasons. With the red/gray hybrid schedule, it helps to keep the classes more aligned. Also, I’d rather be at school virtually during a cold, snowy day and not worry about having to make it up at a later date by taking away from Spring Break or adding onto the end of the school year….To me, the Virtual Synchronous Days are win-win scenarios.” Brodie Lyons says something similar. “At least on a Virtual Snow Day, the day counts for snow so we will not have to make the day up at the end of the year.”

Surprisingly, 55% of students in a survey done by the PGACC  prefer a Virtual Day. The biggest reason for this is the fact that Virtual Days still count as school days; therefore, students and teachers still have a Spring Break and Graduation stays on time. However, several students did think Snow Days are better, and some said there should be a mix instead of one or the other. That doesn’t mean Snow Days don’t have a place in the modern education system.