New Jersey Students Spend Snow Day in Virtual School

The hope is that the virtual day of lessons will count as an actual school day so that it doesn't eat into the school's vacation days

Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014  |  Updated 9:56 AM EDT
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This rough winter is leaving many schools with a real snow day dilemma. They're out of days, and winter isn't over just yet. Now, schools in New Jersey are trying something new - teaching students at home, when school is called off. Jen Maxfield reports.

NBC 4 New York

This rough winter is leaving many schools with a real snow day dilemma. They're out of days, and winter isn't over just yet. Now, schools in New Jersey are trying something new - teaching students at home, when school is called off. Jen Maxfield reports.

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Hundreds of students in a New Jersey school district spent their snow day attending "virtual school," and administrators are asking the state to count it as an actual school day so that it won't eat into vacation time. 

The snow-bound students in the Pascack Valley school district in Bergen County on Thursday watched teachers' lessons online and used Twitter and Google Docs to complete assignments. 

Alexa Hirschberg took a virtual physics class from her kitchen table.

"It felt like I was in school from 8 to 3, and we did work, meaningful work," she said.

High school students at Pascack Valley are assigned laptops, and every teacher already has his or her own website, so the district was well-positioned for creating a virtual day. With five snow days already this winter, parents say it was a productive way to spend yet another school day at home. 

"She wasn't just laying on the couch and snacking and lounging around," said Alexa's mother, Beth Hirschberg. "She actually was on the computer all day."

Barry Bachenheimer, the director of curriculum at Pascack Valley High School, said the staff helped create truly interactive lessons for the students. 

"That's what makes it different," he said. "Students logged on and had conversations with each other and their teacher." 

More than 90 percent of students participated in the virtual day, and most of the feedback was positive, according to school administrators. Pascack Valley is asking the state to count the day toward the state-mandated 180 days of school. 

"We are all looking for solutions on how to make it work so it won't eat into our vacation days or the end of the school year," said Bachenheimer. 

Pascack Valley gave students another snow day Friday when maintenance workers said they couldn't clear all the snow from the parking lots in time. Administrators opted not to do a second virtual day until the State Education department confirms it really does count.

--Jen Maxfield contributed to this report. 

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