Most Wimberley students won’t have asynchronous virtual learning option after Thanksgiving

Hays

WIMBERLEY, Texas (KXAN) — After Thanksgiving break, Wimberley Independent School District students in third through 12th grades will not have an asynchronous learning option.

That means those students won’t be able to learn virtually on their own time through recorded videos, unless they meet specific exceptions.

The school board voted in favor of the move at a special meeting on Monday.

“Administrators reviewed teacher survey responses, failure and absence rates that are significantly higher than past years and parent concerns. This collection of feedback led to the conclusion that continuing to offer all three instructional delivery options is not sustainable for our teachers and is preventing many of our students from being as successful as they can be,” the district wrote in an email to parents on Tuesday.

But it was an option that helped Margaret Oddo at one point.

“I am a cancer survivor; I’m high risk. My mother in law who we also care for—84, asthma, very high risk,” Oddo explained.

That’s why the mother of four initially decided put her two Wimberley students on asynchronous learning.

Margaret Oddo says asynchronous learning helped her juggle help between her two public school students, her homeschooled student and her college student also learning at home. (Photo: Margaret Oddo)

“[It was] more beneficial for my special ed kids to be able to review the videos and slow them down, and make it more productive,” she said. “It’s better for me and any parent, I guess, who’s choosing that option, because they work or some other reason, to be able to view them at their own time to best help their child.”

The district says more than 75% of students are back on campus, nearly 10% are participating in synchronous learning and about 15% are asynchronous.

Superintendent Dwain York says more virtual learners are struggling than their counterparts on campus.

“Kids stopped turning in assignments, kids weren’t answering teacher emails. We were having no communication with them whatsoever,” he said.

He acknowledged there are some success stories of asynchronous learners, and they have already started working with individual families to figure out the best path forward. York says they also surveyed staff and found they were also struggling to keep up with three teaching styles.

He estimates about 80% of their teachers responded to the survey. The district says more than 50 submitted their comments in favor of the move at Monday’s special board meeting.

Oddo thinks the district needs to provide more help, like designating virtual-only teachers or hiring aids to help them keep track of online attendance.

York says he did an assessment of what that would look like for just two secondary classes and found it would be too costly.

“The next thing you know I’m looking at hiring 20 to 22 additional teachers for just those two core areas,” he said. “Whenever you sit down and you looked at those numbers and they’re in the millions.”

Oddo says her middle schoolers bounced from asynchronous, to synchronous to in-person learning, due to the lack of support for virtual learners.

According to the school district’s email, the criteria students must meet in order to continue with asynchronous learning are as follows:

  • Documented health concerns for the student or an immediate family member in the same household, under the care of a physician
  • Internet issues that cannot be resolved by the WISD Internet “hotspot” seats available at the Scudder campus
  • Other extenuating circumstances not addressed in this document

Changes to virtual synchronous learning

The school board also decided that if students would like to continue synchronous learning, meaning joining class online while it is happening in-person, they will also need to meet certain criteria.

“While reviewing feedback from the first 10 weeks of school, it is clear there are some students that are not achieving academic success within the synchronous option as well,” the district wrote Tuesday’s email.

A spokesperson for the school district says they are not able to provide percentages of virtual students with failing grades.

For students who want to continue synchronous learning, the district says they need to meet the following:

  • Compliance with Compulsory Attendance Rate of 90%. At the junior high and high school level attendance is required per period.
  • Students must continue to make academic progress with a passing average. If a student is failing one course that is a core subject or required for graduation (HS-level and Algebra I and Spanish I at JH), they will have until the 3-week progress report to raise the grade to passing or be required to return to on-campus learning.
  • Attend mandatory tutorials for students as assigned by teacher(s).
  • Compliance with the Student Code of Conduct and WISD Student/Parent Handbook.
  • PreK-2 students must participate in remote video calls and turn in weekly packets in order to remain in the asynchronous option.

Wimberley ISD also notes per Texas Education Association requirements, synchronous learning was never offered at Blue Hole Primary School. Therefore, they say those students will be allowed to stay in asynchronous learning.

Hays CISD takes different approach

The Hays Consolidated Independent School District added a couple asynchronous-only days so teachers can have time to prepare and catch up.

Campus will still be open to students who need somewhere to go on those days. The district expects that to be about 10 to 15% of students. They’ll be served meals, and special education buses will continue to operate.

Administrators are debating adding more virtual-only days throughout the year.

The move comes after district leaders saw an increase in the number of failing grades this year compared to last year.

They say the dip has many factors, including the fact that teachers may not have enough time to prepare for all their learning platforms. They hope asynchronous-only days will help.

Earlier this month, Hays CISD reported 30% more failing grades among middle and high school students compared to last year. The district has narrowed that gap to about 12%.

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