The Distant Learning Dilemma: Are There Any Alternatives to Public School For This School Year?
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
With several public school systems not opening for in-class instruction, many parents are concerned about their children not receiving an adequate education. With the 4th term of the last school year, the education of thousands of children have already been compromised and they're lagging behind. As parents, we only have one shot at this, so we better get it right.
Wicomico County Board of Education (WCBOE) announced on Tuesday, July 28th 2020 that they are not opening schools for in-class instruction and strictly providing virtual distant learning for at least the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year (September 8, 2020 - January 29, 2021). We assume that the second semester (marking period 3) will be the same if not hybrid, which would otherwise consist of a mix of both part-time, in-class and distant learning. The learning model for marking period 4 is too far out to know for sure, but the school year will be coming to an end at that point. When WCBOE was asked as to what they will be using as a distant learning platform, this was their response:
"Google Classroom and Edmentum will be our central platforms used to deliver instruction. Our teachers and administrators are currently receiving professional development from nationally recognized consultants. At the conclusion of these PD workshops, a comprehensive listing of essential tools will be shared with students, parents and the community. In the meantime, we are seeking feedback in the registration process to support our decisions along with 3 committees created to assist in our decision making." -Don Brady
With that said, many parents are taking the initiative to explore alternatives to public education so that their child receives an adequate education for the 2020-2021 school year. These alternatives include private school, home school, alternative distant learning programs with instruction, and a combination of public school virtual learning paired with enrollment at a local community college.
It is reported that all private schools will resume regular operation of in-class instruction and some are even providing an option of distant learning for those who prefer. Salisbury Christian, Holly Grove, Greenwood Mennonite, Salisbury School, Epworth, St. Francis de Sales, Faith Baptist, Delmarva Christian, and Worcester Prep are all opening. Enrollment numbers are increasing, so if this is something that you are considering for your child this year, then act fast due to capacity limitations.
For those who desire to homeschool or cannot afford private school, there are some really good homeschool curriculum options such as Abeka, AOP Horizons, Study.com, and ACE PACEs (among others) that use actual books along with a solid curriculum. With a good homeschool curriculum, there's no shooting from the hip. You get physical books, worksheets, quizzes, tests, and an instructor's manual. You don't need to be a teacher to in order to homeschool your child, so don't be intimidated by this concept. You can join a homeschool association, co-op, or umbrella where parents get together to orchestrate classes, field trips, and just network with other parents if a parent needs assistance. Sometimes you will have a parent that is weak in math, and another parent who is strong in math will jump in and help. The association will also document grades and file transcripts for your child, so it's official. Those considering this option need not to worry. There's a huge community of parents that homeschool and there are a lot of affordable options. There are excellent resources put out by the Maryland Homeschool Association and even some local churches that offer a homeschool umbrella for you to join. Here is a good article on joining an umbrella.
Another option is to have your child use distant learning through the public school system for just the basics (gym, CTE, art, music, etc.) and have your child complete their core subjects in math, history, science, and English at Wor-Wic or another community college if your child is in grades 11-12. Exceptions are made if your child is under 16 and considered gifted and talented by the school. This option is great, as your child can kill three birds with one stone - fulfill graduation requirements, gain college credits, and receive a quality education that's most appropriate. Talk to your child's guidance counselor and Wor-Wic counselors to arrange for this option.
Then there are parents that must go to work, but have a child that's too young to stay at home alone. Parents can establish a mini cooperative with other parents or family members that have WI-fi Internet at home. Each day, a parent can host a mini class by opening their home to let children work virtually while being supervised. Your child will need a computer, and can obtain a notebook from the school system if your child does not have one. Some parents are even working together on a rotational schedule. For example, each parent takes off at least one day or a half-day of work during the M-F work week. The amount of time to take off would depend upon how many parents in your group are working together. Each parent would pick a particular day or half-day shift during the week to host and supervise, while the other parents are able to go to work.
We hope that you will find these alternative options helpful in making a decision for your child. We wish you all the best in the new school year whatever you decide to do. Please consider joining the Delmarva Parent Teacher Coalition for FREE, and follow us on FaceBook to stay informed of what's really happening with education in our schools.
Senior Fellow Editor at the DelmarvaPTC.org
July 28, 2020