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N.J. District Tries To Get Around Snow Days With ‘Virtual School Days’

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HILLSDALE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Can technology trump Mother Nature when she delivers a brutal winter like this one?

As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Wednesday, school districts counting up the snow days are hoping so. They are looking for ways to hold classes even when school buildings are closed.

When Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, N.J. closed for snow on Feb. 13, the Lauro sisters – seniors Melissa and Alison – still squeezed in a full day of classes at home – history, math, English, Spanish, global mythology, health, gym and video production class.

Every student in Pascack District high schools is assigned a laptop, so administrators put them to good use – holding the first-ever virtual school day in New Jersey on a school day.

“We’re on the forefront. We’re like Christopher Columbus on the Santa Maria, you know — really to get them excited about it,” said world history teacher Terri Flynn, “because, of course, the first opinion the kids had was like, ‘Ugh, you know, we’re going to have to work during a snow day?’”

Flynn was on her home computer, monitoring students while they used theirs, to watch a video about Russian history. Afterward the students answered essay questions.

“For math, she actually recorded herself teaching so we listened to that and then tried out some practice problems,” said Melissa Lauro.

And the other high school in this district even had virtual gym class — students had to measure their heart rate, shovel snow for 15 minutes, measure it again, and write about it online.

“I think the time has really come for us in education to realize that this is a possibility,” said school principal Thomas DeMaio.

DeMaio said districts across the country called to see how the virtual school day went.

And as for the students, they were almost unanimous when asked if they learned while at home. The answer was yes.

“I don’t like the fact that sometimes the school year has to be extended, or days from April break taken away,” said Alison Lauro.

Thus, the day may be coming when school goes on no matter how much snow falls.

The district got permission from the State of New Jersey to try the virtual school day. Officials in Trenton are still evaluating before deciding if it can count as an official school day or must be treated as a snow day.

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