BASD approved for virtual days

FID days will allow students to go to school online on snow days



With students and families connected more than ever to school through the internet and devices, the PA Department of Education approved the use of Flexible Instruction Days to keep students from missing instruction time when weather or emergency keeps them from school.

Hailee McConnell, Staff Writer

Teachers at Bellwood-Antis are mixed in their reaction to possibly teaching lessons via iPads to students in their homes on snow days. 

The lessons are known as virtual days or Flexible Instructional Days (FID).

These days allow for districts to provide instruction, sometimes via technology, outside of the school when a district are forced to cancel because of the weather or other emergencies.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education had an application process that required multiple steps to gain approval for this school year. Two weeks ago, Bellwood-Antis learned it was approved for virtual days.

B-A will be eligible to have three FID days this year, on a trial basis.

 “The opportunity to provide seamless instruction, and overcome obstacles associated with school cancellations (is a benefit). FID’s can prevent tacking days on at the end of the year after state assessments. My concerns are associated with losing a day of instruction where students and teachers are interacting in person,” said high school principal Mr. Richard Scherier, who said he also saw many drawbacks to the program.

Teachers aren’t so sure and are hesitant about virtual days for a number of reasons. 

Shop teacher Mr. James Mackereth, who spends many snow days shoveling his neighbors’ driveways,  has issues with the idea. “Virtual days are not a good fit for shop classes. The hands-on nature of my classes would not work very well online,” he said. 

Almost all the teachers think there will be a lot of personal challenges. 

“One challenge would be for the younger kids who need extra assistance on an iPad assignment,” said middle school teacher Mr. Tom Partner. 

Mrs. Susan Nycum, another middle school teacher, also thinks personal challenges for teachers is an issue, even though she’s in favor of virtual days. For example, the online lessons must advance current learning and cannot be busy work. They also have to account for students who may not have access to internet at home.

“(The challenges include) making sure my assignments can be completed by using paper and pencil or the iPad, and creating assignments the day before to give to the student in case of a cancellation,” said Nycum.

Superintendent Dr. Thomas Mclnroy said everyone must be patient and let the process play out. “I’m sure the first day it will be a mess,” said Mclnroy. 

For teachers who have younger kids, it will be a challenge. 

“The biggest challenge for me is that I have three kids and if we have a snow day they will have a snow day too, but I have to be ‘on call’ throughout the school day,” said high school English teacher Mr. Kerry Naylor. 

Teachers must be available to communicate via email from 9-12 and 1-3.

Young children present many challenges to the FID program, according to Principle Terri Harpster.

“The first challenge would be the students’ ability to complete educational activities potentially without a parent or other adult support,” she said. “If a parent or adult is not available or unwilling to insure they complete the activity, will they choose to do so on their own, particularly five and six-year old children?

“The activities are to be educationally beneficial. I think that is potentially challenging for all students, but particularly so for our youngest students.” 

However, the benefit of not adding on to the school calendar with makeup days is promising for many people involved with FID days.

Mr. Matthew McNaul, a civics teacher, said, “I like them. This allows us to ‘go to school’ and not miss days.”

One positive about virtual days is that it won’t take away from summer vacations. 

“Since we have the technology available, I feel we should utilize it,” said Mrs Nycum. “It will be nice not to make the days up in the Spring or the end of the school year. 

Middle school principal Dr. Donald Wagner said with FIDs students don’t have to miss out on instruction because of bad weather and the school calendar can remain unchanged.

“Everyone involved will have to work hard to make sure they are effective,” said Dr. Wagner.