BLANCO, Texas - Some school districts in Texas said remote learning resulted in more students skipping school and failing classes.
Blanco ISD switched to 100 percent in-person learning on Monday because of those issues, and Hondo ISD sent a letter to parents this week saying they will return to 100 percent in-person over the next few weeks.
Following the first six weeks of the 2020 fall semester, Blanco ISD officials took a closer look at how attending classes online was affecting students.
"What we found was that a lot of our remote learners were not engaged in the educational process anymore, their attendance was starting to decline, their participation was starting to decline," said Blanco ISD Superintendent Clay Rosenbaum.
Only 10 percent still opted into remote learning at that time, yet, only one COVID-19 incident had occurred in the district. Rosenbaum sent a letter to parents letting them know, starting October 19, 100 percent of students would need to return to classrooms.
"When we made this decision to end our remote learning, we had 103 students at that time that were involved in the remote learning and 53 of those students were failing. And of that 53, 33 of those were failing multiple subjects. So we felt like we needed to do something," Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum did remind parents of other options such as transferring or homeschooling and, for those who may be at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications, there can be exceptions. "So what we asked them to do is, if there's any kind of health risk for them, or for a family member that's in their household, come sit down with us and talk to us. And they've done that. And we've granted that for six students already," said Rosenbaum.
Hondo ISD officials found remote learning was leading to similar problems for their students. According to a letter from the superintendent there, chronic absenteeism is in the double digits even in the lowest grades. In fact, that letter states 80 percent of their remote learners have at least five absences. Over the next three weeks, Hondo ISD will require students without medical reasons to return to in-person learning or look for other schooling options.
A statement from the Texas Education Agency regarding requiring in-person learning reads:
"Under TEA’s policy, school systems must offer on-campus instruction for any student who requests it, and can choose to offer remote instruction in whichever grade bands they believe they can effectively serve through this method. However, this policy allows Texas parents to make the ultimate determination regarding whether it is in their child’s best interest to learn remotely or on campus.
There is an argument from some educators that school systems should be permitted to determine what is the best instructional option for a particular student, regardless of the decision a parent makes on behalf of his or her child.
While we understand these educators believe they are making this determination with a student’s best interest in mind, TEA’s guidance remains focused on a student’s parents being able to make the final decision for their child, taking into account input from their school.”
At Blanco ISD, there is a plan in place to switch back to remote learning in case any student, class, or campus needs to isolate at home. Rosenbaum said Blanco ISD respects any parent's decision to seek remote learning opportunities elsewhere. And any students who are withdrawn can still come back to the district when they feel more comfortable.
"I completely understand and the people in this district, our school board, our staff, we understand how this pandemic is affecting families. We know that there's more anxiety, more stress in families and we certainly don't want to add to that for our families. With that being said, we do know that it is our responsibility to educate our students and we really do not want academic regression to continue," said Rosenbaum.
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