'I’m furious’: Some parents ready to throw in the towel on virtual learning

Some parents ready to throw in the towel on virtual school

CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. — Only a week into school in some places, days in others, and some parents are already fed up with the glitches, slow-downs and hassle of virtual learning.

They told Channel 9 that they’re trying to put their kids back in class for face-to-face learning. Channel 9 reported this story in Chester County, but the issues are the same across the board, in all local counties.

“It’s hectic, I’m furious, and I want them to go back to school,” said parent Missy Simpson.

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She and her husband Eldrick have seven children who are all exclusively learning online.

“We were scared of them going back and getting sick,” Simpson said.

So they signed up for the virtual academy, got laptops from the Chester County School District and made sure their internet service was working. It’s been a rough start, with repeated trips to Great Falls Elementary School for computer help.

“Yeah, back and forth, back and forth, all day. I think they need to do better,” Eldrick Simpson said.

Inside their home, both parents work with the children around the kitchen table -- answering questions, helping them log in, and trying to speak to their teachers. They said the service often lags or kicks them offline and when that happens it’s class time missed while trying to reconnect.

Sixth-grader Timothy Lowe wants to be back at Great Falls Middle School. He said it’s hard to learn -- with so many kids in his online classes, he can’t get the teacher’s attention to ask a question.

“In the virtual school everybody raises their hand and there’ll be more than one person. So, like 48 people in my class, then he (the teacher) can’t see everybody’s hand,” he said.

Both parents also work opposite shifts so one can be home at a time with the kids and help with their school. They decided quickly it wasn’t going to work and asked about putting the children back in class for face-to-face learning.

“The lady told me that since we signed up for virtual, that we had to stay in virtual,” Simpson said.

That’s true in all school districts, with few exceptions. When parents signed their children up for online learning they agreed to stay with it either for a semester or the entire school year, depending on the grade level. That was done so schools could plan for the number of teachers they needed in class and for virtual learning. It also allowed for proper social distancing and school bus arrangements as well. For that reason, districts are hesitant to allow virtual students back on campus at this time.

A statement from Chester County Schools said in part:

“This is a new situation for everyone, so we fully expect some problems in the beginning. However, the schools are doing their very best to ensure these issues are resolved quickly.”

Fort Mill Schools told Channel 9 that since last week, 60 families have asked to transfer their children out of virtual academy back to face-to-face learning and more than half of those requests were denied.

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Most other districts told Channel 9 they are only allowing virtual learners back on campus due to extenuating circumstances and available space. However, they’re working with families to resolve problems and help parents keep their commitment to virtual school.

Several school districts have set up tech support hotlines for parents to get help with online learning. Others are in the process of setting up those help centers now.

They expect things to smooth out once families and teachers adjust to the process. Some districts have 30% to 40% of students -- or more -- learning only from home. All students are doing some remote learning at least three days a week, even on A-B day schedules.

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