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Full Easter break, first in decades

By: Noah Martin/ Senior writer

When COVID-19 hit the U.S. in the spring of 2020, many schools were forced to adopt a virtual learning mode. Now, many schools are utilizing a virtual learning platform instead of snow days, a choice that avoids extending the school year–and allows for maintaining a full spring break.

“2023 might be the first full Easter break for our school in decades,” says Principal of Curriculum and Instruction Matthew Nebzydoski.

While Blue Ridge did not replace all snow days with virtual instruction, it did replace snow days that would have required extending the school year.

According to Nebzydoski, the virtual instruction days are part of Pennsylvania’s Flexible Instruction Days (FIDS) program established as “an alternative approach to delivering instruction if a circumstance arises, like a major snowstorm, that prevents instruction in a customary manner.”

Nebzydoski also says, “Blue Ridge still enjoyed the benefit of five traditional snow days this year and anything after that became a flexible instruction day.”

Some teachers believe the less interruption in education, the better. Flexible instruction, they say, allows for just that.

Virtual instruction that replaces snow days allows many schools, including Blue Ridge, to finish the school year as originally scheduled, and it prevents an unnecessary interruption in learning. Photo by: Chris Montgomery.

“Government teacher Ben Orner says: I don’t love it [virtual instruction], but it maintains a consistency of the curriculum. Also, I feel our teachers have a skill set developed during COVID that allows us to quickly adapt.”

The students, too, says Orner, know what to expect.

“I stressed the importance of attendance as we approached the last snow storm. 99% of my students attended virtually–and that is better than in-person attendance.”

Social Studies teacher Mitchell Less agrees with Orner and says: “Our kids are accustomed to virtual; they’re respectful. They stay on task and participate. I don’t think they mind it.”

Less also says that without flexible instruction days, administrators are forced to tack on make-up days at the end of the school year.

“Adding days doesn’t always become an educational benefit, since the last days of school are often interrupted by end-of-year activities. Also, by that time many kids are checked out.”

Not every teacher is a fan of the virtual learning experience.

Elementary school teacher Robert Dibble says he does not like flexible instruction days.

“I believe they are less effective.”

Dibble teaches through Zoom and says he posts videos for the students as a reference.

English teacher Katie Bailey says she doesn’t like virtual instruction days either.

“I did a lesson and it was not that effective. I think it makes teaching harder because you can’t see what kids are doing, and they don’t talk.”

Science teacher Erin Brown, however, describes a different experience.

“I like them because it is a half-day schedule. I teach like a normal day and still keep it very interactive by making them reply in chat. It does make teaching more challenging, though.”

______

Read about virtual instruction/learning at Blue Ridge during the COVID-19 pandemic here: https://www.raiderreader.org/covid-19-shutdown/

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Noah Martin
Noah Martin
Senior writer Noah Martin plays baseball, golf and belongs to Envirothon. Noah is not sure yet what he wants to do after college, but says he is family oriented and loves to hunt with his grandfather.
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