Richmond County educators face challenges with keeping virtual students engaged

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 10:40 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Virtual learning continues to present new road bumps for school districts. And Richmond County is now worried about getting and keeping virtual learners engaged.

Just three months into the school year, Richmond County education officials are faced with another challenge for virtual learning.

“The pandemic is impacting everyone and it’s impacting us in different ways and in some cases more severely,” said Dr. Kim Barker, college of education professor at Augusta University.

In a teacher survey the district sent out last month, many expressed concern over virtual students not engaging in school.

“Teachers are having to navigate all of these different situations and different homes that are complicated,” Barker said.

Engagement concerns include not completing schoolwork, not communicating with teachers and some students aren’t even logging on.

Looking at the numbers: more than 200,000 students finished the first quarter with a passing grade. But more than 21,000 failed.

And of that 21,000 -- 16,574 or nearly 80 percent were virtual learners compared to around 4,000 face-to-face learners. And the majority? High school students.

“Kids that don’t have somebody going after them or don’t have good ambition. They’re just not going to do it,” David Delong said.

Delong’s daughter is in the 6th grade, and he said she’s been doing well online, but he worries about how engaged she is too.

“I’m just not sure if they’re where they need to be for the grade level. That’s my concern-- is are they able to keep up and maintain those that are doing face to face right now?” He said.

Not only is the district working to assist kids with connectivity issues, but also the kids that are hard to reach.

“Families have a lot of different circumstances that they’re dealing with. We have people who are displaced, we have people that are working extra jobs or people who are out of work and looking for jobs,” Barker said. “So, we have a lot of sickness in our community too... And so, I think that that is complicating the engagement.”

The district is working to close all the gaps associated with virtual learning, including ways to get students more engaged, and also working to issue laptops to every student in the district within the next few years.

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