Superintendents of the Bandera and Medina independent school districts advised families last week that any students involved in the remote learning option this year would be required to return to in-person instruction if they were not passing all their classes by a specified date this month.
In the Medina ISD, that date was the end of class last week, Friday, Oct. 9. The date in Bandera ISD was the end of the three-week progress report, which is Friday, Oct. 16
MISD Superintendent Kevin Newsom added a condition that also would trigger a move of a student in remote learning to the in-person learning environment.
His Oct. 6 letter to the Medina community said any remote learners who had not maintained a 90 percent or better attendance rate in their virtual classes also would be brought back to on campus learning.
With the change, only students whose parents or guardians opted for the remote learning option and who have been successful in their classes during the new school year will be allowed to stay in the virtual learning environment.
Bandera Independent School District Superintendent Jerry Hollingsworth and Newsom said in letters to their community that the in-school learning environment has benefits over the remote model. Students having problems with a class or classes should benefit from the daily contact with teachers and students that the in-school model provides, they said.
“We recognize that remote instruction is not an equal substitute for in-person learning, and we are grateful that so many of our families have chosen to send their children back to campus where they can be in the presence of classroom teachers and their fellow students,” Newsom said in his letter.
In MISD, the change is likely to have less of an impact on student activities since that school district has enrolled about 98 percent of its students in the on-campus instructional mode.
In BISD, about 85 percent of the students already are participating in on-campus instruction, Hollingsworth said.
All of the district’s schools have more students going to classes in person than virtually, but the percentage is greater for in-person learning in secondary schools than in elementary schools.
Newsom said the remote learning option was established in MISD at the beginning of the year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but the sole purpose of the option was “to provide continuity in learning until in-person learning could resume.”
His letter said the district will undertake an evaluation to determine whether the remote learning option should continue.
Newsom said the remote learning option is only available for students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, who are required to quarantine themselves due to close contact with an individual who has been diagnosed with the virus, who have an immediate household member with medical issues that put him or her in a high-risk category for exposure to COVID-19, who require remote learning due to a physical conditions that places them at substantial risk of death from the virus and now who have been successful in their remote learning classes.
Hollingsworth told his parents that a significantly higher percentage of the district’s remote learners were failing a class compared to the group of students who had returned to in-class instruction.
“We believe that nothing replaces a strong connection between our teachers and our students,” Hollingsworth wrote.
So virtual learning students who are failing a class as of the end of this week will be instructed to return to in-school learning after working with school officials to see if their remote learning plan could be modified to create more success for the student, the superintendent said.
Some allowances might be available for remote students who are close to passing marks and who are willing to make changes to make their learning process more effective.
BISD also understands that student health remains a concern for many families and will continue to follow COVID-19 safety protocols that were established at the beginning of the year, the superintendent said.
Hollingsworth said a small number of parents expressed concern about the change but became more supportive when they saw the district wanted to work with their youngsters to see they passed all their courses.
A vast majority of the community has been supportive of the change, the superintendent said. Some parents had already decided to switch their children from remote learning to in-school learning this semester on their own, he said.