Back-to-school plans are underway, but many Northeast Ohio families are concerned about sending their kids back for in-person learning. Akron Public Schools is one district that is considering giving them another option.
Hundreds of elementary school families over in Akron want to stick with remote learning because of COVID-19 concerns. The school board is now trying to figure out how to make it work.
Laura Fletcher's two children have been online learning since kindergarten.
“In about sixth grade, we switched over to the Akron Public Schools program,” she said.
Their courses are now offered through what's called the EduOptions program.
“I don't see any need to send kids in-person to public schools anymore,” Fletcher said. “I think that's kind of an outmoded way of doing things.”
Fletcher is not alone. Akron families are now trying to keep online learning as an option during and even after the pandemic, but school officials have concerns.
“We were looking to possibly not even offer it as an option,” said Tamiko Hatcher, APS director of special programs. “Do we continue to offer something that we know students and families are struggling to navigate?”
Years before the pandemic, Akron Public Schools had a virtual learning program in place for all grade levels. Students were given the curriculum online to work on at their own pace.
“The difference now is that we have found and learned a lot through our COVID-19 experience,” Hatcher said.
The school board is now considering offering something similar once again, amending its contract with the online learning vendor "Edmentum.”
The program would now include live instruction from teachers for elementary students, but these will not be Akron teachers. They will be certified teachers employed by Edmentum.
Middle and high school students will be able to do their work on their own, and can opt into a live instruction class if they are struggling.
“We are getting real close in our drafts of the contract, and we're excited to present that to the board,” Hatcher said.
The school board will discuss this more at its next meeting Monday. Final plans for in-person learning should be shared by Aug. 1. Other schools that offer virtual learning include Cleveland Metropolitan Schools District and Strongsville schools.