Form to opt out of in-person instruction causes concerns in Colleton County

VIDEO: Form to opt out of in-person instruction causes concerns in Colleton County

COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Some Colleton County parents are frustrated with a form from the school district, to opt out of in-person learning.

The on-site instruction opt-out request form gives parents the opportunity to stay in a virtual model all year. District officials say the intent was to show parents the responsibilities that come with choosing that option.

Parents have expressed concerns about the language in the form. It states that a parent who chooses to stay virtual, may be required to “at [their] own expense, furnish equipment, supplies, and technology necessary for [their] child to fully participate, if not provided by the district.”

The school district says they will still be providing devices and technology they offer now, but anything extra would be the parent’s responsibility.

Some parents have interpreted the form as a way for the school district to take the responsibility of education off them and back on the parents.

J.D. Davis, a community activist, said that she believed the district was not willing to give children access to a free public education if they wanted to remain virtual. After learning that the district will be providing the necessities, she believes there are still issues not being addressed.

“We have students that are already having to pay because they won’t offer hotspots. The school district will only offer Wi-Fi,” Davis said. “The internet that is being provided here does not go out to [rural areas] so these parents are already incurring the cost of Wi-Fi for their students.”

She said there is no open engagement between the school district and the community, so a lot of parents are not getting the answers they need.

“Half of our miscommunication is that everything that is going out is electronically, virtually,” she said. “I’m hoping the district will say yes we have to need to find a better solution to open engagement with the stakeholders in this community.”

In a statement to Live 5 news, district spokesman Sean Gruber said,

"This exhibit is a model form provided to school districts by the South Carolina School Boards Association, and was adopted by our school board, with minor alterations, on September 1, 2020. The exhibit’s intent is to ensure that parents recognize that they can choose to opt-out of face-to-face instruction and remain virtual, and that they acknowledge the requirements that need to be met as their student completes the year virtually. Students pursuing offsite educational instruction will still be subject to district policies regarding grading, promotion, discipline, attendance, and other areas.

Parents will not bear any additional costs to continue virtual learning for the 2020–2021 school year. The district is providing, and will continue to provide, the devices needed to participate in virtual learning, as well as access to courses through VirtualSC, VirtualSC Franchise or Edmentum. The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff will not be offering internet service assistance past December.

The district will not be able to provide services to our virtual learning beyond the items above. For instance, the district will not be able to provide special computer equipment, access to private online tutoring, or faster Internet than the option provided by the SCORS.

We encourage anyone that has additional questions about our virtual education options and policies to contact us at (843)782-4510 so we can provide the information they need."

The school district is setting a new deadline of Oct. 7 to give parents more time to fill out the form.

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