Face-to-Face learning for Richland One Students

Face-to-Face learning for Richland One Students

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Because the return-to-school plan proposed by Richland County School District 1 is seriously deficient in many important ways, (RCSD1), we the undersigned parents respectfully request that RCSD1 submit a revised plan that offers a face-to-face option for students who choose to return to school in September.
 
Although well intentioned, the plan presented so far falls short of that mark in several significant ways. Based on feedback from parents and teachers, our main concern with RCSD1’s plan is that it lacks adequate options to meet the needs of all students, especially those most at-risk and in need of the support provided by a structured school day.
 
We all want the best for our students and faculty and wish to offer concrete solutions to remedy the problem with this plan. The flaws in this plan are a critical issue for all of us who recognize that our public schools not only educate the future generation of leaders for South Carolina, but also provide essential resources to our most vulnerable students.
 
Every student deserves an educational environment that is organized, structured, and safe. For most students the virtual model is an unsuitable substitute for in-person learning that denies students and teachers the opportunity to directly interact and achieve a viable, long-term, educational experience.
 
Throughout the last year, the flaws of RCSD1 e-learning platform have become obvious. The deficiencies are so great that they cannot come close to being overcome except by those few parents who have the financial resources to invest thousands of dollars to create a suitable learning space for their child (while still paying taxes to keep the public schools fully funded). This is especially true for families of special needs students (learning disorders, ADHD, Special Ed., non-English speaking households, etc.)
 
Students of families from all income levels need an active learning environment that does not include long periods of sitting, or the eye strain and fatigue that results from long-term screen use. Some will also suffer physically from a lack of proper nutrition. Furthermore, students need intellectual stimulation and many are already suffering due to prolonged isolation and the stress caused by the pandemic.
 
The following points need to be considered before a final plan for RCSD1 can be approved:
1. The elected Board of Commissioners did not approve this plan.
2. Two-thirds of RSCD1 faculty surveyed (1,730) chose face-to-face instructional models or a hybrid as their first choice.
3. A majority of parents surveyed (5,834) also chose face-to-face instructional models or a hybrid as their first choice.
4. Approximately 20% of Richland County residents do not have access to broadband internet. Based on FCC data, it is unclear whether CARES Act funded hotspots will actually offer an adequate cellular internet signal in areas of need.
5. RCSD1 plays an integral role in aftercare for working parents, providing food and ancillary services to students in poverty. 
6. Working parents, particularly single-parent families, may be unable to facilitate live, e-learning for their children and are unlikely to be able to afford facilitators, tutors, or full time childcare.
7. RCSD1 administrators have not released a comprehensive plan to offer e-learning to ESOL students and their families.
8. RCSD1 administrators have not released a comprehensive plan to offer e-learning to students with an IEP and/or 504 plan.
9. RCSD1 administrators have not released a comprehensive plan to offer an e-learning platform for AP and IB classes to students and their families.
10. If 44% of parent survey respondents chose year long virtual school as their first choice, then the district should be able to properly implement CDC guidelines to offer some face to face instruction to students with smaller class sizes.
11. Daycare centers and the YMCA have remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
12. Many districts with a higher infection rate than RSCD1 will return to school with some form of face-to-face instruction.
 
In closing, we would like to reference The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This was enacted to ensure that all children have a “fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” Furthermore, this Act is specifically intended to “close the achievement gap between high- and low-performing children, especially the achievement gaps between minority and non-minority students, and between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers.” By not providing face-to-face instruction RCSD1 is violating federal law and willingly expanding the education and achievement gap of our students.