Virtual Snow Days Would Be Better Solution

by Yvonne Dhimitri
Class of 2015

It is clear to the students and teachers of Braintree High School that it is not the most technologically advanced school around. Everyone tries to make do with what they have, but with recent weather emergencies and testing moving to a technology based format, the problem has become especially apparent.

Over the past few months, Braintree has accumulated over 90 inches of snow, causing over a week’s worth of school cancellations. Snow days force teachers to change their lessons plans, and all students cannot afford to lose so much classroom time. In the case of Advanced Placement students, losing this valuable time is making it difficult to learn everything they need to for their national exams scheduled for May. Braintree is floundering, having lost and appeal for an exception from the 180 day school year rule, and pushing back the last day of school. Yet, other schools in Massachusetts have found a way around losing so much time: virtual snow days.

In schools, such as Pascack Valley Regional High School where virtual snow days have been set up, teachers develop an online lesson that students do at home. Discussion groups for specific classes can be created in case students need to work through assignments or if there are questions for the teacher. The students and staff still stay at home, but learning is still possible. These assignments should not be as long as an entire day of school, as students may need to shovel or have other responsibilities tend to, but it may be difficult for teachers to coordinate with each other so too much work does not pile up for the students as it did in Coyle and Cassidy High School’s virtual snow day experiment.

According to Coyle and Cassidy High School’s vice principal, many students feel that having online work on a snow day is too much and that it takes the fun out of it, but the alternatives are even less appealing. Adding virtual snow days will allow Braintree to take Saturday school and school over April Vacation off the table in case of another snowpocalypse in the future. There would be no need for doing something that is so undesirable to students and teachers alike.

But what about students that don’t have constant access to computers or tablets? Many schools are providing all their students with simple tablets and laptops for their time in school. With Braintree High School’s almost 1,700 student population, this may seem completely out of the question. However, many students already have access to a device that is able to connect to the internet for these online lessons. A more plausible decision is to provide students who have inadequate or no technology with a suitable laptop or tablet.

But again, how is this possible if Braintree High School is not even putting its funding into the schools own computers? Throughout the third floor there are computer labs that teachers can book if their class needs to do an online activity or work on writing in class. It is often difficult to schedule time in these labs, and even when a class is able to get into one, there may not be enough computers for everyone in the class, or some may not even work.

Over the past few years, Braintree High has attempted to advance its technological equipment. The school provides almost every teacher with projectors and a few smart boards. While some teachers use projectors constantly, others do not use them at all, choosing instead to teach out-loud.

The school also purchased twenty or so netbooks that students can check out in the library when all the computers were occupied. When these netbooks were first introduced to the school, students were thrilled. It was something new and fresh, but the problems with this addition were quickly realized. The netbooks themselves are sufficient, but it is impossible to load them with such a terrible internet connection. Most of the computers throughout the building take at least ten minutes to turn on, log into, and open the internet, wasting valuable time that students could be working on an assignment. Students hated receiving a netbook during study instead of a desktop computer, because they just did not work properly. About two months ago, the netbooks were taken out of commission. The school’s internet could just not handle being connected to so many devices at once.

With such a small capacity for connected devices, online testing like the PARC exam is seemingly impossible. When BHS tested the exam in 2014, many students had difficulty even logging on to the testing site, and there was not nearly enough computers available to administer the test. Not only are higher functioning computers needed, but also a wireless internet connection that is capable of handling it all.

If Braintree High is planning on upgrading the equipment in the school, it needs to go to the correct places. The technology funding BHS receives should be put towards the students − any new technology should help them get the most of their activities and education.

Yvonne Dhimitri is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition