St. Pius X participates in its first virtual learning day


Image courtesy of PowerSchool Learning

St. Pius X hosted its first-ever virtual learning day on Monday, November 4. It got off to a bad start when the learning management system, PowerSchool Learning, was down throughout the morning. Instead of being able to access their assignments, students got this comical error message stating that "Kitten detangling units have been dispatched." PSL was back up and running properly within a few hours, and the day was able to go on as planned.

Henry Guynn, Assistant Editor

It’s the end of January and a blizzard hits Atlanta, forcing St. Pius X to close for several days in a row. While this sounds like a dream come true for students and teachers, the situation can quickly turn into a nightmare when they learn that any additional school cancellations will have to be made up during future scheduled days off, such as teacher workdays, or, even worse, Spring Break. 

To prepare for scenarios such as this, St. Pius held its first-ever Virtual Day on Monday, November 4. For students this meant doing schoolwork in the comfort of their own homes or favorite coffee shops while teachers spent the day on campus ready to help students or answer any questions asked.

Virtual Day assignments were posted on PowerSchool Learning and went live at 8:00 am that Monday. Teachers had a lot of flexibility with the work they assigned, but they were instructed to plan something that would take the average student approximately 20 minutes to complete and that could be checked for completion. Assignments included watching brief videos and answering questions, posting on PowerSchool Learning discussion boards, and taking electronic quizzes. 

Students could choose when to complete their work, but all assignments had to be turned in no later than 3:00 pm. Those who didn’t turn in work received a zero for a grade and were also marked absent from that particular class.  

The structure of the day allowed students the flexibility to work at their own pace and take breaks as often as they wanted, all from the comfort of their own homes. 

“I liked it a lot because I finished all my work by 10:00 am,” sophomore Emalyn Yantis said. 

Senior Witt Hollensbe also enjoyed the day, and he took full advantage of being able to sleep in without waking up to an alarm before the sun was up.

“I loved the virtual day,” he said. “I woke up at 10:00 am, did my homework in a few hours, and then watched a whole season of Gossip Girl.” 

Most teachers also enjoyed Virtual Day because it gave them time to catch up on a lot of work at school. 

“It was good. Students did what they were supposed to do, and I got a workday out of it,” theology teacher Mr. Charles Hicks said. 

Spanish teacher Mr. Michael Abbott agreed, saying, “My students learned the same amount [as they would in class], and I got a lot of stuff done.”

Students and faculty were sent a survey a few days after Virtual Day, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. Some even commented that they’d like to see the school have it more regularly, even up to once a month.

Hollensbe said he would definitely support more Virtual Days in the future.

“I think it has a lot of potential to eliminate the redundancies we have during the school day,” he explained. “When moving at my own pace, I was able to work pretty quickly and not waste time doing things like moving between classes, waiting for instructions, or spending 45 minutes on a lunch period.”

Not everything went according to plan, however, as the technology aspect of the online learning day had some glitches. After intermittent hiccups for a few hours in the morning, PowerSchool Learning was back up and running for students to be able to complete all of their assigned work. Of course, some students still tried to take advantage of temporary problems.

The intermittent technical difficulties were somewhat frustrating for students and teachers, but the site was back up and running properly before lunchtime.

“I tried to use the website being down as an excuse to not do any of the work, but all my teachers could still see when any of us logged on and attempted [to access assignments] so my plans were foiled,” junior Chuck Long said. 

Even without the temporary glitches, some students said they’d rather be at school.

“I already can’t focus at school, let alone at home with all the distractions that come with it.” senior Paddy Gannon said.

“I just prefer to be taught in person so I can ask immediate questions and get immediate answers,” junior Rachel Grubbs said. “There’s just something about being in-person that I love about school.”

Journalism teacher Ms. Ashley Curlette said that although personal contact with students is better, Virtual Day is still a great alternative to use when needed.

“I’d much rather have a Virtual Day than have to make up school days,” she said. “Obviously face-to-face teaching with students is ideal, but this is a great substitute. Most of us have gotten feedback from our students about the day and learned what worked well and what didn’t. I think the whole process will be easier and more effective for everyone the more we do it.”

A second Virtual Day is planned for Monday, March 16. Should a major weather event strike between now and then, and schools are closed for an extended period of time, however, we may see another Virtual Day sooner rather than later.