Hastings Public Schools terminates e-learning for second semester with exception

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 6:22 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The Hastings Public Schools Board of Education has voted to terminate e-learning for the second semester unless students provide a doctor’s note. Some parents are not happy with the decision as local COVID cases surge.

The nine member board all voted to stop providing remote learning unless students could provide a doctor’s note for why they can’t attend school in person. The school district assures it is safe but some parents don’t want their kids to take the risk.

“We’ve been in session for a few months and we know we can do this. We’re the only area school in the ESU9 area offering this,” Superintendent Jeff Schneider said. “None of the other schools in ESU9 are offering this. We felt like we needed to at the beginning partially because of the size of our district and we just weren’t sure how this was going to go.”

One mother explained that her two sons have done well in e-learning in the elementary and high school levels. They only will be able to get a note for one of them to stay home and will have to change some aspects of their day-to-day life.

“Medically we feel it is more necessary for him to not be in a big group of kids,” Robyn Fagiolo said. “He’s in high school so I can’t have him around that many kids that could potentially be spreading a virus. It makes us nervous. It’s why the option was given to us as parents.”

Health departments have found schools with mask mandates have been successful in not having the virus spread in the classroom. Schneider said they have only had 70 COVID cases in the school district since the start of the year. Schneider cited the main reason for terminating the program is because many virtual students are falling behind in their coursework.

“We haven’t had very good results. We have some students who have excelled but for the majority of kids it’s very difficult to do this through a computer screen,” Schneider said. “The biggest problem is when a student struggles and they need interventions, we can’t carve out time to provide those interventions.”

He said in-person learning is the best option for students and he says they can be safe in the buildings. In his report to the board he said 66 percent of the high school e-learning students are not on track to finish their coursework. At the middle school it is 50 percent and it’s 40 percent at the elementary level.

One parent said they should have had more of a say in the decision. Fagiolo explained her son is ahead in math but slightly behind in another subject so it is hard to quantify how behind the students are.

“It feels wrong that we are being forced into this choice. I appreciate that they are taking more safety precautions than maybe some other schools have chosen to. I don’t think it’s enough though,” Fagiolo said. “They all still eat together, there’s still teachers and kids sick regularly with COVID and the flu season is starting.”

The district wanted to make the announcement now so they can plan for classroom sizes and give people time to consult their doctors. The school district will also accept a doctor’s note for a parent or someone in the household who has a medical condition and would be put at risk from a child going to in-person school.

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