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Virtual Classrooms Allow Students to Stay Connected on Snow Days

Students with Internet access log onto the Kentucky district's website to obtain their classroom's lessons for the day. Hard copies of the lessons were also sent home for students without Internet access.

snow day
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(TNS) -- Lessons were learned from virtual classrooms in Webster County, Ky., on Monday after snow kept students out of school.

Webster County Schools debuted its Link2Learn program, which is what the school system calls nontraditional instructional days. The program was made available through grants from the Kentucky Department of Education.

"Not losing any instructional time was the main goal of this initiative," said Todd Marshall, the district's director of pupil personnel.

Students with Internet access log onto the district's website and can access their classroom's lessons for the day. Hard copies of the lessons were also sent home for students without Internet access.

"I think it's good that they can utilize the technology that we have to continue learning on snow days where we can't make it to school," said Jamie Jones, of Slaughters.

Her two children, high school senior Jerrica Jones, and seventh-grader Jace Jones, logged onto their virtual classrooms without a hitch.

"My daughter said she had asked her teachers a few questions, by email or text, and she said they responded within minutes. She said they did the same things they would have done in class, but she was at home."

Her son used Study Island, which was the favored software program for the middle school. He didn't have any problems using it, but knew his teachers were just a phone call, text or email message away if he had issues.

Teachers log onto Infinite Campus from 8-11 a.m. and from noon to 3 p.m. on Link2Learn days.

They are monitored for how long they spend online answering Facebook questions, texts, tweets, email and phone calls, said Marshall.

Like their students, the teachers can also work from home.

Instructors from Murray State University trained Webster County educators how to use Google Docs and Edmodo during the summer. Each teacher then created lessons for their students and uploaded it to the district's website.

Jennifer David, a third-grade teacher at Providence Elementary, uploaded reading, math and science lessons for the day. Students were asked to use place-value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100 for the math lesson.

Students were trained on how to obtain the lesson materials online starting in November. Letters were also sent home to parents and guardians.

Once school was cancelled Monday, district officials notified everyone through OneCall, Facebook, Twitter and other media that it would be a Link2Learn day and then provided information on what they would need to do.

"It was clearly expressed so that people knew without a shadow of a doubt that it's a Link2Learn day in Webster County," said Superintendent Rachel Yarbrough.

The district keeps a spreadsheet showing what teachers have done for each Link2Learn Day, Marshall said.

This and other documentation will be sent to the Kentucky Department of Education. The state agency will then verify and approve the day as a nontraditional instruction day and credit the school system with an average daily attendance.

Webster County Schools can use as many as 10 nontraditional instructional days, which should keep the district from pushing back its last day of classes into June, like last year.

The last day of classes for the 2015-16 school year is scheduled for May 13.

"That extra couple weeks would be nice to have for an extended summer break," Jones said.

©2016 The Gleaner (Henderson, Ky.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.