Parents who are not pleased with Bement’s online learning software expressed their displeasure to the school board at its Oct. 14 meeting.
Darlene and Kenneth Frieboth said their two high school children are struggling.
“We kept them out to keep them safe, because of COVID, but not at the cost of making them fail or held back. Nobody is reaching out from the school to help. We live in the school district, why are we not getting help from the school?” said Kenneth Frieboth.
His wife, Darlene said that one reason they chose the online option was because she has an autoimmune condition.
Like most school districts, a remote-only option is being offered in Bement, which chose to purchase separate software through Educere, which uses online presentations given by its own staff to teach.
Some parents have complained that the curriculum is not always grade-appropriate, leading to more failing grades, and that help has been lacking. Some were also surprised that help comes from Educere instructors, not staff from Bement.
School Superintendent Sheila Greenwood said that, of the 60 who chose remote learning, there have been complaints from only six, and “we have responded to each and every email.”
She added the district is “trying to improve the interaction with the Educere teacher. I would say we are pretty happy. We chose the best platform out of what was available.”
Greenwood said an outside firm was selected because Bement’s in-person option is nearly a full-day, and that having Bement instructors “can’t do both justice.”
Joey Nelsen, another parent present of a high school student expressed his concerns as well.
“I grew up here. I came back here, because I like this school. To say that your parents made that choice, or you made that choice that one day (of registration) and now you can’t come back. I don’t understand that. We have so many kids that have this problem. My daughter is a junior and it stresses her out, she cries every night, she wants back in school.”
He also could not understand why online students could not return to school earlier than the second semester.
“Right at the quarter, change it. It’s 60 kids. What do you need, some hand sanitizer? I’ll go get you a gallon of sanitizer.”
But Greenwood said it is not that easy, especially with social distancing concerns.
“We may have to move an entire elementary classroom to a different location just with the spacing and numbers and trying to make sure everyone is safe. So it’s not as easy flipping a switch with trying to manage all the laws and all the requirements we have to follow, it was a pretty significant investment for us per child to do the remote learning and give the option to the parents.”
Board members expressed their thoughts and concerns as well.
“It is overwhelming and you feel you are not doing a good enough job in person or the ones in remote. It tears you in two directions and it is hard. It is hard for us It is hard to sit on this board and make these decisions, it is hard being a parent to those that struggled with spring,” said Trixie Flavin, who teachers in another district.
She preached patience from fellow parents.
“I get you are having trouble, I sympathize with that, I do. Just know we are trying to do our best just hang with us. We are trying to make it better,” she said.
Janice Fogerson, another board member and teacher, said the concerns need to be communicated to Educere.
“There has to be some supervisor of this program, and say this is not acceptable. We paid darn good money and this is the truth, this needs to be addressed. If there is something the supervisor knows something,” she said.
Board President Todd Wright also asked for understanding as school districts navigate through the uncharted waters of COVID-19
“Not trying to make excuses but this is honestly uncharted territory for all of us. We are wearing masks and sitting this far apart,” said Wright.
“We were trying to do this as an experiment. This whole year is an experiment as far as that goes, we are trying to do better for our teachers so they have more time for the other kids as well, no offense to your kids that was our thought, our intent,” he added.
The Frieboths also asked if there was extra funding from the CARES Act to use for a tutor or someone to help. The district stated earlier in the meeting they have around $10,000 in aid remaining, but that it will likely be needed for cleaning supplies.
Greenwood added that administrators agree in-person learning is for most students for all when possible.
“Remote is very different than in-person instruction. That personal interaction piece is not there. It makes it hard for everyone in this situation,” she noted.
But 2020 is different due to the pandemic, and during the summer it became apparent that an online option was needed.