WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley Community School District board members and administrators discussed controversial remote learning options during their regular monthly meeting Monday, Sept. 28.
Approximately 66 K-5 students, 12 sixth graders, and 37 junior and senior high students had opted for the school’s remote learning option, known as Panther Academy, by the time of last month’s meeting on Aug. 24, according to high school principal Derek Flatter.
Remote learning at TVS is administered through an online platform called Edmentum, which has also been utilized by National Trail and Preble Shawnee School Districts.
Superintendent Scott Cottingim said during last month’s meeting that the choice to use Edmentum, rather than assigning TVS faculty to work with remote learning students, was made so that students attending class in person would not be neglected while teachers are being trained in “blended learning.”
“We decided to let our teachers do what they do best, which is teaching here,” Cottingim said.
Concerned parent Gail Meadows, who currently has two children attending Panther Academy, raised concerns about the Edmentum platform during Monday’s meeting, however.
“Expectations for what this online academy would look like were not properly managed,” Meadows told the assembled board members. “I thought that this remote option would be at least somewhat self-directed for students, where they would be participating in an online lesson with their teacher and then completing activities and games on the computer to practice skills. The reality is very different. It is impossible for the kids to do this independently.”
The process of navigating the Edmentum platform is complex, according to Meadows, and requires almost constant parental supervision.
“It requires direct parental guidance, where I need to be by their side the entire time,” Meadows said. “When you have multiple young children, and especially a child with learning differences, that becomes a very difficult situation to manage.”
Meadows also pointed out that worksheets associated with the program were numerous and costly to print out, and that emails to school administrators seeking guidance had not received timely replies.
“I must conclude that my concerns were 100% ignored,” Meadows said.
Meadows indicated that other parents had expressed frustration with the Edmentum platform in a Facebook group dedicated to Panther Academy.
“One would think that school leaders would want to get out in front of communications on something this important, control messaging, and address concerns before parents end up on the PTO page waving an S.O.S. flag, saying that their kids are being left behind,” Meadows said.
Meadows indicated that of the hundred-plus students who initially signed up for Panther Academy, only 55 continue to participate in the program.
“I don’t get on Facebook. I don’t intend to get on Facebook. I don’t intend to go through that drama,” board president Tim Beneke said.
Beneke spoke in defense of Edmentum, saying the platform was unprepared to deal with the number of students who’d initially signed up.
“They was very overwhelmed with the response that they got,” Beneke said.
Cottingim was sympathetic.
“I can tell you that we have expressed our displeasure to Edmentum,” Cottingim said. “It started so badly and rolled out so late that it left a poor taste in everybody’s mouth.”
Vice President Christine Bitner agreed.
“At this point it needs to have more involvement from the board and the administration to decide if we want to move forward with this company,” Bitner said. “And if we can’t, then there need to be other options.”
The next meeting of the Twin Valley Community School District Board of Education will take place Monday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. in the TVS Middle School media center.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish