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Albemarle Co. parent explains impact of virtual learning on families with limited internet access

Parent explains how learning virtually in Albemarle County can impact families very differently
Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 3:19 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The decision to start Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) with a mix of in-class and online learning will impact families very differently, and some parents say they’re looking for alternative options for their children’s education.

“They did collaborate. That was my one thing with the petition was that we don’t base this decision on fear, we base it on science,” Albemarle County parent Martha Peck said.

Peck’s son attends Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, and she wrote a petition in July asking ACPS to consider a hybrid learning model.

“It’s a difficult decision. I wouldn’t want to make it, but I support it,” Peck said.

The School Board recently voted to reopen schools beginning in Stage 2, with most learning virtually for the first nine weeks of the year. Student with special needs, inadequate internet access, and/or English learners will be invited into schools to complete their work.

“We would do synchronous if that’s helpful. We also would record sessions,” Deputy Superintendent for Student Learning Debora Collins said during the July 30 meeting.

“We’re trying to think about accommodating, not just the needs of the curriculum and the standards, but also the needs of parents and children as we develop the kinds of ways we can help students and educators figure this out,” Collins said.

Sally Duncan, a mother with several children attending county schools, says virtual learning is not an option for them. They live in an area with limited internet access.

“My main concern is that if everything is done synchronously, then what does that mean for the kids who have to do it asynchronously? If everyone else is doing it synchronously, then my kids are going to have a different experience,” Duncan said.

The School Board discussed three possible scenarios to accommodate students with limited internet:

  1. Students who have no internet access or a WiFi signal can come into the school to do the assignments, or have their work delivered to them.
  2. Students with no internet access, but can access a WiFi signal can be given a device (provided by the school) to do their work.
  3. Students who do not have internet access due to a financial situation will be helped by the school to receive access.

However, Duncan says that she just wants her children to be on the same playing field as everyone else.

“If my kids go into the school, are they going to be there for a full day at school doing videos staggered throughout the day? If it turns out that they have to go from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day for four hours of video then we’re not doing that. That’s unhealthy,” she said.

The decision to begin in Stage 2 is in effect for the first nine weeks of the school year. The first day of school for students is set for September 8.

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