CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State School Superintendent Clayton Burch said again Thursday that remote learning is not good for West Virginia’s children and the daily interaction with a teacher should be sought as much as possible despite rising COVID-19 cases.
According to the state Department of Education, remote learning is when schools discontinue in-person learning and move to a remote learning model. It can consist of online instruction, paper packets, and other instructional materials and processes. Remote learning is different than virtual learning which is considered a long-term learning model in which students have to have reliable internet access.
During an appearance Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline,” Burch said the more he learns about remote learning the more he’s convinced it should be avoided.
“I’ll remain very constant–remote learning is not good for our children,” Burch said. “Actually the more we’re finding out about it I think it’s one of the worst things we can do. As far as I’m concerned we need to take advantage of every minute, every day we can have a live teacher with these children.”
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Burch said remote learning is not working.
“We still haven’t solved the broadband access. We’re speaking to counselors and Communities in School members across the state that say without school as that support mechanism and without having that as a secure place for these children, I get afraid that maybe when we do remote learning is the affect on these children actually worse than we are facing with this disease,” Burch said.
Research shows remote learning is more difficult for low-income and minority families. West Virginia went to mostly remote learning when the pandemic started back in March. In many counties students were given weekly packets to complete. The school systems, working with the state Department of Education, used the summer to improve online offerings and access but Burch said being away from the classroom remains a less than desirable option.
“These children need us and I think we all need to remember that they need school and I hope we all have a renewed appreciation for what our teachers do each and every day,” he said.
Burch said schools remain safe places for kids to be during the pandemic. He said what’s hurt a lot of counties is staff members who get COVID-19 or have come in contact with someone who has and they have to self-quarantine.
The Upshur County Board of Education voted earlier this week to go all-remote until at least Jan. 4 even though Upshur County’s COVID-19 numbers are lower than other counties and the state COVID-19 map allows the county to continue in-person instruction. Burch said Thursday he hopes other counties don’t follow Upshur’s lead.
“I appreciate the local control and I appreciate local decisions, they do know their communities well, but I will be disheartened, personally disheartened, if we miss any opportunity when we could have these children in person,” Burch said.
Upshur County was yellow on Thursday’s daily COVID-19 map but had a red metric for average cases.
Burch also said Thursday a lots been lost in the area of academic achievement since March.
“I think we better brace ourselves. I honestly believe that when we get through the end of this we’ll have to establish a new baseline. We’re hearing national partners talk about we could be seeing a three to five year loss here. It will take us that much time to get back to where we were prior to the pandemic,” he said.
Burch said there are some West Virginia counties that are doing a “great” job with virtual and doing the best they can with remote learning.
“I hope that we all realize the value of these teachers. There is no virtual platform, no remote platform that replaces the impact that adult has when they are able to connect with those children on a regular basis,” Burch said.