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Second Thoughts About Distance Learning?

One-Day Registration Scheduled To Allow Students To Switch Learning Options

WATER VALLEY –  The Water Valley School District has scheduled a special, one-day registration on Friday, Sept. 4, to allow parents to change the learning option selected for students  for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.
The special registration was approved by the Water Valley School District Board of Trustees following a request from Superintendent Jerry Williams during Monday night’s board meeting. Williams explained that numerous parents have requested that their children be allowed to exit distance learning and return to the traditional classroom option. Prior to the start of the school year students were required to select either distance learning or traditional learning, with the understanding they would only be allowed to change at the end of the first semester.
“We have a lot of parents who want to bring their kids back,” Williams told board members. “They wanted to do distance (learning) at first. We are telling them no, we had a deadline. But I think it would be a good idea to give them one day.”
Although the special registration will also allow students to change from the traditional classroom option to distance learning, Williams told board members that he has not received any requests from parents for this change.
“At first, I think a lot of these parents thought it would be widespread through the schools,” Williams added about parents who initially opted for distance learning. The superintendent also explained that some students didn’t realize the workload for distance learning would be the same as for students in the classroom.
“They really thought they were going to sit at home and not have to do anything like they did last year,” the superintendent noted about the final nine-weeks of the last school year when schools were shuddered by order of the governor and administrators and teachers scrambled to provide distance learning materials.

Board Input
“We all know that it is better for them in the classroom with the teacher hands-on, than it is to be away,” board member Pierce Epes noted during the discussion. “But can we afford to  be changing them out all the time? No, that is way too much chaos,” Epes continued about only offering the one-time window allowing students to switch.
“But from the teacher’s standpoint, I think it is better now than later,” board member Jill Clark added about allowing the shift before the end of the semester.
“I agree, if you catch them now, they are not four months behind,” Epes said about students who struggle with distance learning for an entire first semester.
“The ones who can’t do it on-line, they are the ones who are wanting to come back. We want them back, we need to get them back in the classroom because if not, they are just going to fall farther behind,” Williams said.
“We don’t want that,” Epes agreed. “That is not why we are here, we are here to serve the children. I think this is a great idea.”
Just under one-fourth of the students enrolled in the district enrolled in distance learning at the start of the year. The school board initially implemented a policy prohibiting students from switching learning options during the semester due to the logistics that included balancing classroom sizes, providing school computers for distance learners and training teachers to provide lessons for students in both learning options.
The anticipated school start has been relatively smooth. Williams noted during Monday’s meeting that most of the students who were quarantined at the start of the school year will return this week. This includes almost 60 members of the varsity football team who were exposed to the virus. The initial exposure was not on campus or during football practice.
The entire team is quarantined until August 26, when they will return to school and resume practice. The quarantine pushed back the start of the high school season until Sept. 11, when the Blue Devils will travel to Bruce.
The seventh and eight grade teams will start play against Bruce on Sept. 1.

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