PASCACK VALLEY - Many New Jersey schools used up all their snow days last winter and students had to give up their breaks or weekends. With new support from the state, Pascack Valley is inching toward virtual class time from home instead.
"I was able to sit in my bed, wake up at 9:30 with no alarm, I went out with breakfast with a friend and came home and still be able to do the work I needed to do," says Jamie Spelling, senior at Pascack Hills.
It's not a sick day for Spelling, but it almost feels like it. That's because Pascack Valley is taking part in virtual classrooms Tuesday and Wednesday. While the school buildings are open, there are very few people inside. And those who are there are even wearing pajamas. Lectures, labs and homework are all done over the computer.
"It's education on your own schedule," says Spelling.
Two years ago, the district first tried this after all their snow days were used up. But back then, it didn't count as part of the school year, so students had to give back a vacation day to make it up.
"Ninety-eight percent of our students were in school that day virtually,” says P. Erik Gundersen, Pascack Valley superintendent. “Because of the statute and the school day didn't count, when we had to make up that school day during spring break, we had about 60 percent."
This year, the state has allowed them to use the virtual days as part of the school year. Supporters say this is a much-needed practice for the future. Jamie's father Ian has worked from home for a long time now.
"It's weird that we're both home at the same time, to be honest with you but it's kind of exciting too and it makes perfect sense," says Ian.
Middle and high school students in the Park Ridge district will take part in something similar next week.