In a pandemic world, many Lamar County students and their parents have elected to stick to online learning with the advent of the new school year, but is that the best option?
Last week, Prairiland ISD trustees decided to kick remote learning to the curb, with more than half of their students failing or falling behind on their classwork. Results at other Lamar County schools aren’t quite the same, but most teachers and administrators want their students back in the classroom.
At Stone Middle School, Principal Dee Hudson said many were frustrated with the process on both sides.
“At the beginning of the school year, Stone had over 150 students participating in remote learning,” according to Carla Coleman, the North Lamar ISD spokeswoman. “However, as the year has progressed, the majority of students have chosen to return to in-person learning in order to benefit from the face-to-face instruction provided by the teachers. One parent commented that remote learning is harder for the student and the parent because the parent is not trained to be a teacher.
“Teachers are hoping that more students will return to in-person learning so they can be provided with individualized support and direct instruction.”
Now 58 students are on remote learning at Stone, and 48% are passing online classes when compared to the 67% passing in-person instruction, according to Coleman, and that is the second lowest passing rate for the district’s schools, with the high school at 22%.
Parents are having a hard time helping their high school students with online work, according to North Lamar High School Principal Mark Keith.
“This option has been difficult due to either the parents lack of knowledge with Google Classroom, motivating their own children to get their work completed, availability of internet access, their child is not being successful and they want them back in school, (according to Keith),” Coleman said. “Mr. Keith also said that the majority of the teachers want all the kids to come back to school, and there are some who aren't quite ready for them to return who are genuinely concerned for their own health.”
Bailey has a 51% passing rate; at Everett, only 5% are failing out of a total 39 online learners; and Parker has only three students failing out of their 34 online learners. Only 17.26% of learners are online only at North Lamar.
Paris ISD has about 1,000 students doing online learning, about 30% of their total population, but according to the district, many teachers are feeling overwhelmed by the requirements for the digital classroom and being available to parents virtually 24/7. The district has now unveiled a plan for an evening help desk for parents to call and ask questions.
At Chisum ISD, only 99 out of 1,069 students do their school work remotely. Superintendent Tommy Chalaire said the pass/fail rates weren’t available just yet, but feedback from teachers has been they would prefer to see their students back at their desks.
“Chisum ISD teachers would like to see a return of all students to the classroom for face-to-face instruction,” he said. “Overall, we feel this is a more successful learning environment for our students.”
A lot of the struggle with online learning is technical difficulties. Lori Malone, the principal at Higgins Elementary School, said parents have complained to her about the problems.
“Higgins parents tell her that they are having technical difficulties, lack of time with teachers, lack of social interaction for students, and they want to be parents, not teachers,” Coleman said. “The Higgins teachers are recommending that all remote learners read as much as possible. These early education years are critical in learning to read.”