COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The new school year is well underway with students in physical classrooms, others online, and the rest are somewhere in between. Districts have been hard-pressed to develop the best model and address any problems that popup along the way.
Colleton County schools have a virtual option and a blended approach. The virtual option is exactly as it sounds like while the blended model is online three days a week and two days in the classroom.
The approach works fine for the elementary and middle school levels, but with a larger variety of classes in high school, some parents say the blended model is not delivering.
“Any parent that you talk to is going to be under the impression that the two days their kids are in high school they are going to have face to face learning, not sitting in a classroom doing a virtual learning at school,” said Kevin Canaday.
Canaday is parent to a high school student.
He says he thought opting for the blended model would allow his daughter to receive instruction similar to traditional high school. He thought students would go to classes with teachers in specific subjects leading instructional hours.
That is not the case.
Instead, student cohorts are relegated to a classroom where they turn on their laptops and attend their online school in person. This means while some students in the cohort are working on algebra others may be doing geometry or another subject altogether. Either way, a teacher is not leading them through a specific lesson.
Sean Gruber, the communications coordinator for the district, says this system was set up to keep students out of the halls and protected from the coronavirus. He says there should be no surprise as this is what was presented to parents ahead of the new year and it is clearly laid out on the website.
“It’s just not plausible for us to meet the specific instructional needs of both of those groups without having a special schedule design,” Gruber said, talking about the virtual learning option and the blended model. “That’s the reason that these students are sitting in the classroom working on virtual instruction in that cohort design.”
Canaday says it is not what he expected.
“We understand that there is a risk that our kids maybe exposed to the virus and it may spread, but we are trying to do the mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing at schools to limit that,” Canaday said. “Once we decided to send them to school, our expectation is a teacher teaching the class, helping the student in a normal fashion.”
Teachers are still present in the room, however their role is a little different.
“They are there to supervise. They are there to make sure that all the DHEC guidelines and CDC guidelines are being followed,” Gruber said. “They are certified teachers coming in and out of those classrooms and interacting with the kids to help them with their assignments and talk to them.”
Gruber also says contact, non-physical, with the kids is extremely important.
“Students know there are adults out there that want them to succeed and remain safe,” Gruber said. “Even beyond the education, I think the psychological aspect of that is extremely important.”