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Weather won’t stop education

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Students at one Center Grove area school will have class today, regardless of whether their school is open.

Even if sleet, snow and other winter weather has made getting to school too difficult, SS. Francis and Clare Catholic School’s kindergarten through eighth-grade students will need to be ready to learn by 9 a.m. They won’t have to have their school uniforms on — this is the one time they can attend class in their pajamas — but they do need be ready to use their home computers or school-issued iPads.

Their teachers have created six hours of reading, writing and math lessons that the students will be able to complete from home. Teachers will be checking on students’ work throughout the day, and if they finish early they’ll be sent revisions or additional assignments to work on.

Area public and private schools have cancelled more than a week of school this winter because of snowstorms and bitter cold. The Indiana Department of Education is giving schools different options to make up the unusually high number of snow days, including Saturday school and lengthening the school day. Two weeks ago Clark-Pleasant and Center Grove schools both opted to lengthen their school days to make up three of their snow days this winter.

SS. Francis and Clare has canceled school six times this winter, and students have already started making them up by attending school on previously scheduled days off, including President’s Day.

Principal Betty Popp doesn’t want to extend the school year because of additional cancellations. So on Thursday she told her teachers to prepare online lessons that they could teach their students remotely in case school had to be cancelled today.

“I just thought this is a good way to do it, rather than add extra days or figure out what those days are going to be, we’d do this,” Popp said.

Teachers were initially surprised by the plan, fourth-grade teacher Kelly Cox said. But all of the private school’s fourth- through eighth-graders have iPads, and Cox has regularly been creating Internet-based lessons so that her students could use the devices in class. So creating lessons that her students would complete with the iPads from home isn’t a stretch, she said.

Cox is actually hoping for a snow day, so that teachers can see how well the new online lessons work.

“To do an entire day’s work

online caught me off guard,” Cox said. “But the more I learn about it, the more I’m excited about it.”

She has a plan ready for the day. By 9 a.m., Cox’s students will need to have downloaded poems to their iPads. The students will scan and mark the poems for metaphors, rhymes, repetitions and other themes that have been reviewed in class before sending the documents back to Cox, who will check their work.

After that, the students will use online documents to complete writing assignments. They can write about whatever they want, but they have to include a certain number of vocabulary words that they’ve been learning in class.

Once that’s done, they’ll move on to geometry.

Students will use their iPads to take pictures of items around their house with parallel and perpendicular lines and will use those to complete a math assignment that will be due by 3 p.m.

If anyone finishes their assignments early, Cox can grade it and give them another project to work on.

Kelli Vaught, who has two children at the private school, thinks online learning is a great idea.

Vaught will need to sit with her first-grade student, who knows how to use the family’s computer but can sometimes get distracted, to make sure he completes all of his homework. But her fourth-grader, who is skilled at using an iPad, should be able to direct herself through the online school day.

Having students work online also means the school year wouldn’t get longer due to snow days, she said.

Nearly all of the students at SS. Francis and Clare have Internet access, though Popp knows some students may not be able to get online, especially if a winter storm knocks out power.

If that happens, students will receive an extension on the day’s assignments if they bring a note from their parents, just as if they took a sick day. But they’ll still be expected to complete the online work later, Popp said.

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