DERRY — Under a pilot blizzard bag program, Pinkerton Academy teachers will be prepared to interact with students online this winter during snow days.
The high school has spent about two years developing the program so students won’t miss assignments when they are forced to stay home because of snow storms, said Beverly Lannan, dean of faculty.
As the state’s largest high school, Pinkerton has taken a methodical approach in developing the program.
“At Pinkerton, we make sure we have all of our ducks in a row before we act on something,” she said.
The so-called blizzard bags are Internet-based assignments students will complete on days school is canceled because of inclement weather or other emergencies. The state Department of Education has approved the plan Pinkerton submitted earlier this year, with conditions, Lannan said.
“That is a state mandate, so any school that has opted to undertake the Blizzard Bag concept is required to have an 80 percent compliance rate,” Lannan said. “And, up to five days can be used as blizzard bag days that can substitute for regular school days.”
Lannan has worked with a committee to develop creative ways to implement the program. Unlike some other high schools in the area, Pinkerton will offer current assignments, and teachers will play a more active role in the process.
“What makes our blizzard bag plan unique is that teachers will be online communicating with their students on a blizzard bag day,” Lannan said, adding that faculty will be discussing the lesson with students, answering questions and guiding them through the assignment.
Lisa Lavalley said students will be graded and must complete the online assignment or receive a zero.
“It’s going to affect their grade,” said Lavalley, who is co-chair of the Blizzard Bag Committee. “It’s just like a regular class assignment.”
To hold a blizzard bag day, teachers must be given a warning of at least two to three days in advance that there could be a storm approaching. The teachers will then be instructed to prepare their blizzard bag lesson, Lannan said.
Life Science teacher Ed Faszewski said adding the advance warning requirement was an important component of the plan.
“I think that was one of the key things that we wanted to have is that there was some consistency with what was going on in the classroom,” said Faszewski , the other co-chair of the Blizzard Bag Committee. “And by making sure that there was a couple of days’ notice, it would fit right in line with what the teachers were going to be doing in class at that time of year.”