Snow Days Become ‘Cyber Days’ at BDHS

Winter weather may have kept Bishop Donahue High School students home from school Monday, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have to go class.

Classes at Bishop Donahue were held entirely online Monday for the first “Cyber Day,” the school’s answer to lost instruction time from the large number of school cancellations this year.

“This is something new we are testing,” Principal Tom Wise said. “This way, we can keep students engaged and continue with lessons when school is canceled, instead of taking the whole day off.”

According to Wise, teachers sent online assignments in the morning through email and students were expected to get the work done by early evening. Students could ask questions by email in the early afternoon and the assignments were graded at the end of the day.

Doing schoolwork online is not a new concept to Bishop Donahue students. The high school is a One-to-One school, which means every student has an iPad they can take home with them to complete schoolwork. Wise said the school’s textbooks are digital, many assignments are done online and students and teachers already communicate through email throughout the school year.

“This is how our day-to-day communications go anyway,” Wise said. “All of our work is done through simple apps like Notability and Dropbox. Our kids and staff are well-versed in this kind of communication.”

Cyber days also help students prepare for online classes they may encounter in higher education institutions, Wise added. With more colleges offering distance learning classes, it is important high school students are comfortable using technology, he said.

Wise said he first had the idea for cyber days when he read students in Pittsburgh and Ohio were completing assignments online whenever school was canceled. To test the waters, Wise said the school ran a sample cyber day last week to see if students responded to the emails. It was successful enough that the school decided the next time school was canceled, classes would be held online.

This cyber solution to snow days may have come just in time. According to Vince Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools, Bishop Donahue has already had six school cancellations this year because of the extreme weather.

Cyber days can also be used when students are out of school for reasons other than weather, according to Schmidt.

“This program allows kids to access schoolwork wherever they are,” Schmidt said. “It’s a benefit if a child is sick or hospitalized or if they are on vacation, they still have access to school. It’s a real benefit. You’ll never replace a teacher in a classroom, but this is an awful good way to still have education continue on days that would have been lost.”