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Allen: Remote learning a dilemma for us all

St. Mary's Catholic School

This week, Longview ISD limited remote learning by ending the asynchronous option as surrounding districts have ended remote learning in its entirety. Our district still offers synchronous learning, where students attend in real time, but parents are afraid it will soon follow the same fate. And we have reasons for this concern.

I am the parent of two remote learners, and I attended the school board meeting Monday to speak about the most common issues we are experiencing nine weeks into school. At that meeting, a charter board member announced the number of students who recently returned to the classroom after the first six weeks of school. In response, the room erupted with applause, and there were comments of “Way to go” and “Good job.” From my vantage point, it was not a cause for celebration. The surge of students back to classrooms after the first six weeks was a direct reflection of how overwhelmed parents are by the dysfunction of the remote learning experience.

Whether your children are physically attending school or attending remotely, the success or failure of remote learning affects us all. If your children are physically sitting in class today, it doesn’t mean they won’t be quarantined tomorrow. They will face the same issues that remote learners are experiencing, and their grades will likely suffer.

As a result of speaking at the board meeting, my children’s teachers have been singled out. I was concerned that would happen, and I want those teachers to know that it was not my intent. I spoke to give voice to all parents who have expressed the same frustrations that I have with the online experience. The problems I addressed are widespread within our district. They exist at each school. They exist in many classrooms. Singling out teachers may help to address specific issues for my family, but I’m disappointed that the narrow response means the rest of the classroom settings will remain unchanged.

The most pressing issue for remote learners is that classes often don’t start on time, if at all. An extremely conservative estimate for the first six weeks would be that half of the classes did not start on time. And each time a class didn’t start on time, a parent got a call about it. Think of your child’s schedule, and try to grasp the number of calls or interruptions this resulted in.

This issue alone is overwhelming and unsustainable for working parents. Therefore, parents sent their children back to school.

The second most urgent issue is that remote students often cannot see or hear what is going on in the classroom. Laptop cameras are pointed at whiteboards, and whether it is a video playing or a teacher writing on the whiteboard, the students frequently have difficulty seeing and hearing. Consequently, assignments are often completed without the benefit of any meaningful classroom instruction. Wireless microphones and direct feed of presentations to the online platform would resolve both problems.

Another matter is that substitute teachers do not have access to Google Classroom. Without access, they cannot stream the class, nor post assignments. This could be resolved by creating a “substitute” account for each teacher that has full access. This would allow online classes to proceed if a teacher is absent or quarantined.

I also believe it would be helpful to have a “teacher tech day” to allow teachers and even substitute teachers an opportunity to become familiar with the tools available in the online platform.

Have teachers have been asked what is working for them and what is not? As a parent of students under the Texas Council for International Studies charter board, I have not received any type of poll or questionnaire to solicit feedback. And the jubilation at the LISD board meeting made me realize that our trustees likely do not care what I think. They just want my children back in the classroom.

This singular focus by our school boards is a disservice to our community. If the district would exert effort into making remote learning a success, the city could tout the robust learning opportunities available in our school district. Businesses could potentially be drawn to our area. Our district could lead by setting an example for other schools in East Texas. The ripple effects could be profound.

— Pam Allen is a Longview resident.

Today's Bible verse

“My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me ...”

John 10:27

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