School closures turned into virtual learning opportunity

While the threat of dangerous weather kept Atlanta kids home from school Tuesday, students from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School still had a full day of learning from home.

Through their computers, they created video classrooms with their teachers. They were assigned homework online. They received instructional help.

In one class about Transformational Leadership, the Sandy Springs school’s students discussed a project in which they had to figure out how to evacuate the city if there were a natural disaster or zombie attack.

Teacher Trey Boden questioned students in a Google Hangout whether closing schools was an overreaction after the transportation disaster caused by a storm two weeks ago, when students were stuck in schools or on buses. Or, he asked, perhaps it’s justified to overreact a little bit when there’s a significant safety risk?

“Is it better to be overcautious or undercautious in this situation?” he said during the class. “We’re in the middle of an experiment of what virtual school could look like.

Students were quick to point out that Tuesday’s weather wasn’t any more severe than moderate rain, and Boden asked if perhaps government leaders took quick action because of the transportation disaster caused by a storm two weeks ago, when students were stuck in schools or on buses.

“I think parents would rather us be at home doing work than at school doing work, just in case it did start snowing in the middle of the day like last time,” said sophomore Caroline Corley in the video hangout.

Students suggested ideas such as alert systems, staggered release of schools when storms strike or investment in road clearing equipment.

Corley’s group came up with a messaging system to communicate threat levels based on the severity of storms, so parents would know whether to travel, pick up their kids or leave them overnight at school. Parents could be informed through phone, email, robocalls, social media and the school’s web page.

Although dangerous weather hadn’t yet begun Tuesday afternoon, Corley said schools made a smart decision to keep schools closed.

“After what happened last time, with kids stuck at school and on buses, they didn’t want that to happen again,” she said after the online class. “It was cool that even though we weren’t at school, we had great discussions.”

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