Snow angels: Catholic schools teach an important cyber lesson

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Computers have revolutionized modern life, but there’s one holdout: the snow day, a hoary school tradition much beloved by students. The last few frigid days have demonstrated the need for schools to close when roads are icy and temperatures are dangerously low, but does education have to stop?

In an interconnected world, of course not. As the Post-Gazette’s Robert Zullo reported, proof of that comes from several local Catholic high schools. On Tuesday, Seton-La Salle Catholic High School in Mt. Lebanon experimented with the idea of cyber days at home instead of snow days. Principal Lauren Martin declared the response to the first day “very positive.”

Rather than have students sit home idly, teachers emailed assignments to them with the tasks to be completed by 5 p.m. In developing the program, Seton-La Salle worked with Serra Catholic in McKeesport, which started its initiative last year. Quigley Catholic in Baden has been blazing this trail for the past five years, even having cyber days on teacher work days.

This makes all the sense in the world — the cyber world, that is, beyond the restrictions of brick-and-mortar schools. And there’s a lesson here for public schools.

To be sure, Catholic schools charge tuition and as a matter of principle it’s easier to ask parents to provide computers and Internet service at home for kids to use. That may be a problem in some public school districts — and that is one reason why “cyber days” on snow days are not yet counted by the state toward the 180 school days mandated by law.

It is a decent concern but one that state government should embrace as a challenge. Putting computers in the hands of all students may require funding, but computer literacy is not a luxury today — it’s a necessity.

Besides, not every student may need a loaned computer. Indeed, it’s a fair bet that many of the kids delighted by snow days this week were online anyway having fun. Buses may need to stop when it snows; learning doesn’t have to.

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