Computers could save snow days at WHS



Article Published: Jan. 28, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Technology may soon replace makeup days on Saturdays, officials say, and it's closer than you think.

"I think next year we could be prepared to do that with our high school students," said Watauga County Schools (WCS) assistant superintendent Scarlet Davis.

Instead of struggling to make up snow days, laptops may give students the opportunity to attend school from home. Technology would allow students to receive and turn in assignments, chat live with teachers and classmates and watch video lectures. The effort could be aided by a fall initiative that will put a laptop in the hands of each high school student.

"We think eventually we're going to get to that place where we can carry on instruction without kids actually in the building," Davis said.

It's been part of the snow day conversation for some time and the new high school's wireless status may finally give students and teachers the opportunity to expand on what they are already doing.

"Teachers already have Web sites," Davis said. "They are using those remarkably well as far as using blogs and posting assignments."

A terminally ill Watauga student is already using Skype, a video-to-video communication program, to communicate with classmates and teachers. Davis says it's realistic to expect that to expand to students trapped by icy weather.

It's not just a local discussion. Statewide, schools are required to have a plan to continue education in case of an emergency like a pandemic.

"Through our Web page and through Skype, we would be able to do that," she said.
As for the rest of WCS, it may be a few years.

"As far as K-8 schools ... our biggest issue there is we have got to update the infrastructure in our schools," Davis said. "We do not have wireless [access]... we do not have personal devices for our students."

It's an issue Davis hopes will be remedied in the coming years.

As of Wednesday, Watauga County Schools had missed 11 days due to inclement weather.

"We're not that far off the norm," WCS communication director Marshall Ashcraft said.

While inclement weather days have been more concentrated, the average is between 14 and 15 days, Ashcraft said. Last year, WCS missed 18 days.

It's an old problem officials hope technology may soon solve.

"Any time you live and go to school in a mountainous area, it's sort of up in the air as far as how many days you will miss," Davis said, "and safety is our number one priority."

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