Southern Local parents concerned with virtual classes

SALINEVILLE — Five weeks into the school year, the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) has run into some criticism surrounding the curriculum and functionality of the program.

After two mothers appeared at last month’s Southern Local school board meeting, they appeared once again on Tuesday, as they feel their concerns have not been addressed.

Michelle Cole said that assignments aren’t being uploaded in time, so her child isn’t able to complete the assignments in time before the original deadline. While the school can handle in-house problems like login issues, assistant principal Adam Loudin said anything related to content or computer grading it is out of their hands.

“When that happens, we submit a ticket to have it addressed,” Loudin said. “If they solve it in 48 hours, then it’s solved in 48 hours. If it happens in two weeks, it happens in two weeks.”

Loudin said that schools from around the area are having the same issues because the system is overloaded. Julie Utt echoed that the problem is much beyond the teachers, but it is the fault of the system.

“We’ve adapted to this system, and I know it’s just not us,” Utt said. “We’ve adapted to a really terrible system. If we pay for this system, we should probably get our money back. It’s not good for the children.”

Both of the mothers complained about the supplemental material as well, saying they have to look through the videos to make sure they are appropriate for the children. Cole said that when watching the videos online, there is no way to rewind or fast forward, so when they need to find an answer to a question, they have to watch the whole video over again.

Having two children using the VLA, Utt said she spends up to six or seven hours per day attempting to get the videos to work.

One of the suggestions for the issue was to get rid of the VLA altogether and strictly use Google Classroom. Right now, students have to go back and forth from the two programs to access assignments and supplemental materials.

“The teachers are supplementing through Google Classroom, which is fantastic,” Utt said. “But now, you’re only being graded through VLA. So, if my son doesn’t finish his VLA assignments, he’s going to get a bad mark. But the only way we’re learning is by doing the Google Classroom stuff that the teachers put up.”

While both Utt and Cole have been frustrated, they both echoed that elementary school principal Richard Wright has been very helpful and easy to communicate with during the issues.

“Mr. Wright has called me back or returned my text every single time,” Utt said. “He has been fantastic. That’s not my problem. My problem is this system. We need to stop talking about it and do something, because it’s not getting any better.”

Superintendent Tom Cunningham promised the mothers that they would attempt to figure out the details and try to address all of the problems.

“We’ll have something ironed out soon,” Cunningham said. “Some of these things I wasn’t aware of either. I don’t use the system every day, and I don’t have a child using it. But we are working towards rectifying this issue.”



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