Online-learning debate shows a sharp divide among parents
By Bobby Bryant
With Gov. Henry McMaster’s decision April 22 to keep all South Carolina public schools closed through the end of the academic year, Darlington County students face several more weeks of classes by computer – online learning.
For some students and parents, this is welcome news. Others fear a disaster.
After nearly a month of students learning from home to avoid risking spreading the coronavirus through classrooms, hallways and cafeterias, some members of the Darlington County school board began hearing parents say this was a great idea and was working well. Other parents told board members it was a nightmare.
“We’ve got kids that have taken to this eLearning, and those that it’s just been such a shock to them that they’re basically just shut down and not turning in anything,” board member Richard Brewer said in an April 6 board meeting. But, he added, “Thank the good Lord that we were prepared for (this crisis) as much as we could be.”
More recently, parents have posted comments on the school district’s Facebook page that show in much greater detail exactly how they feel about the district’s online-learning program, and why. The online comments, from dozens of parents, show a sharp divide among Darlington County families about taking classes by computer.
Here are some excerpts from their posts:
“I appreciate teachers more than ever! I feel they are doing all they can to help the students to continue their education. This isn’t just hard on the students and parents, it’s also hard on the teachers. … The teachers are always available to answer any questions and they have worked with us. Thank you, teachers, for caring about our kids!”
“All that has been accomplished in this household is an ADHD honor roll student who was learning with leaps and bounds and having no issues getting his work done and loving school is now regressing at warp speed with little success at getting the work done. I’m ready to throw in the towel for him!”
“We have had a great experience with digital learning. The school asked what could be done a little better. I asked for more videos helping my daughter with her lessons. The next week, they had videos. We have had a couple of bumps here and there, but overall it has been great.
“My kids are at home where they are safe. My daughter’s teacher has been available and has responded to me within five minutes of texting her each time. Thank you for all that you are doing to keep our kids safe and continuing their education as best as you can!”
“I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m about to throw my hands up and say forget this crap. I’m a parent that has always been on my child about her grades, but we (are) about to see some failing grades if the next six weeks or so stay like they are.
“The workload is ridiculous and NOT only an hour of work for each subject like I’ve been told by the teachers. That’s a bunch of bull. It takes my child almost two hours for one subject. I want to recognize the parents who have no help and still work full time. Y’all are amazing, because right now, I’m only working part time and I have help, but we (are) still struggling.”
“So many ungrateful parents on here. … So busy bashing the district, etc., when there was barely any time to prepare for this. Nobody knew for certain things would get this bad. Yes, it’s stressful to have to be an adult, parent and now a teacher as well. But that’s what being a parent means … stepping up and ensuring your child is SAFE and HEALTHY!
“We live in the age of technology. If you’re struggling with how to handle it all, reach out to others, Google resources, YouTube ideas. Stop passing the blame. They are your kids, so ultimately they are your responsibility! I’m just glad the district/state cares enough about my child’s health to keep the schools shut down so this doesn’t spread any worse than it already has.”
“Dear Dr. (Tim) Newman, just call the year. End this torture and let’s be done. How many kids who were already ‘just barely making it’ are now really suffering because they don’t have parents at home helping them or pushing them through it?
“So many kids are going to be behind and not really understanding what they are learning. Just end it. These teachers are going to have to reteach and spend a month next year getting everyone back up on the same page and understanding as it is.”
“I’d rather my kids get some instruction even if it’s not top-notch than nothing at all. I see how my kids struggle to get back (on) track after summer vacation so I can’t imagine how hard it would be with extended time of no lessons. I will admit that I’m exhausted with being the educator plus trying to keep up with my normal duties as a wife and mother.”
“(At) least lessen the load of work. We are drowning over here! I am so DONE!!”
Newman, the county’s education superintendent, said in late March, shortly after the computer classes began, that officials were aware of how big a change online instruction was going to be.
“It is different than what we’re used to,” Newman said in a video address to students and parents. “We’re used to being in a classroom with a teacher that works with us face to face and can talk with us on a regular basis. We’ve had to change that mode of instruction. … We’re working through all the bugs and kinks in this process.”
“We are carefully trying to balance rigor and then what is reasonable,” Newman added. “We realize that this new method of delivering instruction can be pretty intense. If anybody has taken distance-learning classes before, or online courses, you know there’s a lot more material than is typically involved in a face-to-face class. We’re aware of these issues, and we’re working through those with you.”
In a more recent video chat with parents and students, Newman indicated that the workload would slowly begin to taper off as the end of the semester approached.