remote learning

FULTON COUNTY — The number of students in the Fulton School System opting to return to the classroom for the second semester ticked slightly higher than those who chose the option in the first semester.

Parents were asked to commit to a learning model for the next semester — face to face or remote learning — by Dec. 11 in time to set schedules and classes for a January return.

Of the nearly 41,000 responses in the election survey, just over 48 percent opted to return to in-person instruction. That is up 4 percent from the 44 percent that chose to return to the classroom when the district reopened the schools in October.

Students not choosing an option will continue in the same mode as they ended the first semester, according to district officials.

“If you did not complete the election survey we are going to assume you are returning in January under the same option you chose in the fall,” said Superintendent Mike Looney, noting more than half of the district’s students did not complete the survey.

Fulton Schools is removing the flexibility option that parents used in the first semester, but which proved to be a logistical nightmare for staff. Next semester, students must commit to the learning model they select for at least the first nine weeks.

School administrators said the back-and-forth decisions over the past two months, from remote to in-person and back again, challenged teachers and scheduling staff to keep classrooms up and running.

“During the nine-week commitment, you will not be allowed to move back and for convenience sake as it currently is being done,” Looney said.

Fulton School Board member Linda McCain, whose district includes much of the Johns Creek area, said parents need to understand their role in the learning process if their child remains at home.

“If [parents] are choosing remote learning, they need to know how much of the responsibility for their child’s learning falls on their shoulders,” McCain said.

She noted parents need to make sure their children are in a structured environment and have the ability to engage and interact with their class and teachers in a virtual setting.

Looney echoed that sentiment, noting he’s aware of children who have not been successful in their virtual learning because attention is not being paid to missed assignments and coursework. Parents, he noted, must be teachers as well to ensure their children are on track.

“They have to be the teacher in the classroom in a lot of ways, [and] make sure their children are logging in, finishing assignments, and taking the assessments,” Looney said. “At the end of the day, the parent is still the primary teacher of their child.”

Based on the results of the remote learning over the past several months, Looney said the success of the student has ultimately been linked to the engagement of the parent in the learning process.

“We want to support our community in any way we can, and we are proud to offer choices,” Looney said. “But parents must contemplate their ability to engage.”

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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