HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Schools across North Alabama closed down amid icy, snowy weather last week. Some parents might wonder why close, when schools could just do virtual learning like they have for almost a year now.
For Madison County Schools, Karen Fischer, the Supervisor of K-12 Education, said there are a lot of factors preventing the school system from quickly switching from in-person to virtual.
She said it boils down to a few things, one of them being technology. Fischer said while they do have as many devices as students, not every student has a device. Some devices are spread out throughout schools in learning labs. She said these can be gathered and distributed to students but it takes time.
Another concern is internet access. Fischer said not all students have WiFi at home, they can hand out hotspots, but, like the devices, they take time.
Fischer said they also need to think about the teachers and make sure they have time to change plans from in-person lesson plans to remote.
“There’s a lot that goes into creating a lesson plan for the week and to shift that, entails more than just turning on a switch for it to be online,” she said.
Fischer said this can be a big ask for teachers who are already working long hours and their top priority is sticking with their high standard of education.
“Every lost instructional moment hurts, especially this year,” Fischer said. “But also the quality of instruction can be compromised when teachers are stretched to thin with tasks that may or may not have an immediate impact on students.”
Fischer said they’re also thinking about the parents. While some may be able to supervise their kids during a virtual learning day, others might not be able to.
“It’s an undue burden on our parents who may not be able to be there with their kids to hep with the virtual instruction,” she said.
Since Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency during the severe winter weather, the school days missed will not have to be made up. Fischer said with less days they’ll have to focus on what students need to know.
“Certainly our teachers look at the most essential standards and they focus their attention on making sure every kid masters those essential standards,” Fischer said.
She said with more focus on the need-to-knows, students may lose out on the more fun activities and the nice-to-knows, but that’s something they need to do.
“Making sure that we protect the instructional time that remains and making sure that we switch the activities we engage in to support the acquisition of high levels of skill in math and reading, especially, and in all the content areas,” Fischer said.