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New Jersey district uses virtual schooling to recoup snow day

MONTVALE, N.J. — Pascack Hills High School students attended virtual classes Friday to make up for a snow day. The district lost four school days due to bad weather this winter.

New Jersey requires students to meet a 180-day requirement.

While Pascack Hills students were on spring break this week, they signed in today between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. Friday to complete assignments on their computers. Teachers were in the classroom to accept video calls from students or to chat live online.

"So I’m doing two different things in my classes today. My freshman just finished a unit on imperialism and they’re starting the second half of the unit,” said Deb Horn, a social studies teacher. “My sophomores are writing research papers.”

District officials said the school must be open for the state to count this as an actual school day. Students who wish to come in to do their class work, may see teachers in person. Either way, all students must sign in and finish their virtual assignments by noon.

“Why take an absence on the day? If you can just do it at home,” said Oliver Fishel, 16, a sophomore in Ms. Horn’s class.

This is the district’s third virtual school day ever, and it’s the first one this year. The district - which serves students in Montvale, River Vale, Woodcliff Lake and Hillsdale - experimented with two virtual class days in 2016.

“Students are buying into it," said Ms. Horn. "Whereas everyone would wish there wasn’t a snow day and we had off today, I think kids understand the purpose of today. And so far I’ve gotten really good participation."

Other districts have had to cut spring break short and require students to come in for a day of classes, while other districts have added extra days to the end of the school year to make up for lost time.