Bonner-Prendie High holds virtual school day

Joseph Oquendo, 16, a junior, participates in a Skype conversation for a Cyber Day. The Archdiocesan school is trying online courses to offset instruction days lost to snow.
Joseph Oquendo, 16, a junior, participates in a Skype conversation for a Cyber Day. The Archdiocesan school is trying online courses to offset instruction days lost to snow.
Posted: February 14, 2014

ANOTHER severe snowstorm, another day of missed instruction. Repeat. The pattern this winter has been unbearable, especially for school administrators.

Officials at Monsignor Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School, however, found a way to break the cycle.

Principal Bill Brannick and the school's academic board yesterday rolled out Cyber Snow Days, a pilot program aimed at offsetting missed instruction days by having students complete assignments electronically at home. The program will help the Drexel Hill school make up for past snow days in order to meet the state mandate of 180 instruction days, Brannick said.

"Everybody's really tired of this winter and [they're] not wanting to make this up at the end" of the school year, Brannick said.

Bonner-Prendie has to make up four snow days, and this Monday, President's Day, which was supposed to be a holiday, is now scheduled to be a Cyber Day.

The buildup that began Monday regarding yesterday's nor'easter led Brannick to discuss launching the program earlier with the board and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

During yesterday's Cyber Day, teachers posted assignments for their classes online by 9 a.m. and held "office hours" during which students could ask questions via email or in a chat room from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Each student was issued an iPad by the school on which to complete the work.

All assignments were to be filed by 5 p.m.

For the day to count as an instructional day, 95 percent of the school's 900 students had to participate - the school's average daily attendance, the principal said.

School officials will look at the participation rate, "the level and quality of assignments and how the interaction between students and staff worked out during the cyber office hours," Brannick said, adding that teachers and academic chairs gave positive feedback to the idea.

Brannick teaches a marketing class to 25 juniors and seniors and said he received 18 assignments by 1:30 p.m.

"I commend the administration and faculty for thinking outside the box and in maintaining the learning environment every day," said parent M.J. Gilbert, of Upland, whose son, Joseph Oquendo, is a junior.

Denise McDonald, mother of another junior, Colette, called the program "great and innovative."

"If a parent has to work from home, why not the kids?" McDonald said.

Oquendo, 16, completed his seven assignments by 3:45 p.m. - pretty good time, considering Oquendo first logged in at 10:30 a.m.

He watched a 30-minute video for theology class, comparing the Holocaust to abortion, and read the novel "Nineteen Minutes" for 30 minutes. Afterward, he had to select five important quotes and file them with his English teacher, Oquendo said.

Parents seemed to like the Cyber Snow Day idea. Oquendo said that although the day required more work than a normal school day where some classes would have been lectures, he appreciated the idea, too.

"I'd rather have this than have to go back into school on off days," he said. "I enjoyed the day knowing that."


On Twitter: @ReginaMedina

Online: ph.ly/DNEducation

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