Henry Napier’s schoolwork Thursday was a bit unusual. Do some advanced-placement statistics. Do some biology. Go shovel a few sidewalks and driveways.
Napier, a senior at Bishop Kelly High School, was among nearly 800 students who took part in the school’s first virtual learning day, connecting with 54 teachers via computer — a way to keep school going when the weather had once again forced cancellations throughout the Treasure Valley.
If we can salvage a half day of instruction, we want to at least stay on pace.
BK Principal Mike Caldwell
One of Napier’s courses is weight training — a little hard to do online. “My football coach told me to go out there and shovel a couple of neighbors’ driveways for them,” Napier said. “I think I got three.”
Bishop Kelly has lost four instructional days to snow so far this year. Administrators are planning to make up two, but staff thought they should find a way to keep class going no matter how deep the snow and slush gets.
The private Catholic school made sure each student had a tech device, and over the past several weeks teachers worked to create lessons that would blend well with computer learning.
After the storm hit Wednesday night and Thursday morning, school officials notified students that the BK building was closed, but classes would continue online in a abbreviated schedule beginning late in the morning. Teachers reported few absences.
“I think it is absolutely working,” said Mike Caldwell, principal.
Even Carley Mings, a junior vacationing in Hawaii, signed in to class. “It’s like 82 degrees and I am sitting on the beach doing my homework,” she said.
Distance learning via computer isn’t new, but Bishop Kelly thinks it has found a way to avoid bringing education to a halt because of the weather.
Classes ran for 30 minutes and were a mixture of live interaction with teachers and more traditional online learning. Students had to log on to show attendance.
“If we can salvage a half day of instruction, we want to at least stay on pace,” Caldwell said.
At first, Napier wasn’t too sure about stay-at-home learning.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. After the first 15 minutes, however, he was dialed in. “It was more self-led.”
History teacher Larry Crump put together a 10-minute segment that was a mixture of lecture and PowerPoint.
And as Crump was preparing his at-home lesson, he was struck by a thought: “We just ended snow days.”
Mings hopes it doesn’t come to that. Students should get a couple of snow days before online classes start.
“Snow days are so fun,” she said. “Maybe after two.”
Snow days add up
Boise School District’s cushion for snow days is gone.
After missing seven days because of weather this month, the district says it will have to make up any further weather-releated cancellations to meet state education requirements.
District officials alerted parents in an email on Thursday. Administrators are developing a plan over the next two days and will review it with the teachers union, the board of trustees and the public.
Other districts already have run out of extra days. West Ada held classes on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and plans to have classes on Presidents Day, Feb. 20.