Akron Public Schools Board of Education approves ‘remote plus’ learning plan

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — The Akron Public Schools Board of Education approved a plan Monday night that would keep most students learning remotely, but offer limited in-person classes.

Board members met for almost four hours discussing how to proceed through the rest of the calendar year.  The board voted unanimously to approve a plan Akron schools superintendent Dr. David James calls “remote plus.”  It allows some students who may be struggling with virtual learning to actually return to the classroom.

“Virtual learning is harming our son and we’re sure he’s not the only one,” said parent James Hardy, also a former president of the Akron School Board.

He is one of a few parents to speak up at Monday night’s virtual Akron school board meeting,  urging members to let students return to in-person or hybrid instruction.

Students are now learning 100 percent remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Online learning does not work for young children. It is proven that children six years old can only sit still for twenty minutes of screen time, not two hours… you see how I’m trying to have my six year olds join into this meeting,” said parent Williams Reynolds.

School administrators say survey results show approximately 40-percent of parents want to continue remote learning, while 60-percent want at least a blended or hybrid model of instruction.

The survey shows that 69-percent of teachers want to continue remotely, 18-percent prefer a hybrid and 12-percent want to return to in-person instruction.

Dr. James proposed what he calls “remote plus” learning.  Most students would continue to learn from home, but those who need specialized instruction can physically return to a school building in a limited capacity.

“Looking at students who are actually struggling, maybe failing, looking at some of our high-needs students who have special needs and looking at our high school seniors particularly, you know, that we need to make sure we can keep them on track to graduate,” said Dr. James.

Administrators presented a video, demonstrating safety measures designed to protect students boarding the bus, walking through hallways, and seated in classrooms seating.

“Everyone is wearing their masks; everyone is moving quickly,” explained Deb Foulk, Akron Schools operation and business manager.

Dr. James also proposed allowing winter sports, like basketball, to continue, after getting more guidance from Summit County health officials.

“Limiting the venues, limiting the number of tickets for spectators who could actually see one of these events during the winter sports period…will certainly be in place similar to what it was for fall sports,” said the superintendent.

The school board did not vote on any proposal regarding winter sports.  Class sizes for this special type of instruction would be limited to about six or eight students — the same students all the time.

The “remote plus” learning model would begin November 30.

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