Sumner County parents say students have to teach themselves on virtual school program

Keeping Schools Safe

SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Parents with kids in virtual classes in Sumner County say it’s been months of their students trying to learn from a computer without a teacher.

More than 150 parents have created a group called Parents and Learners Expecting Action (PLEA) and they say that action under state law is a free and appropriate education.

“Both of our sons have chosen the virtual option because our 11-year-old is actually special needs, he has a lot of medical issues,” said organizer Josh Graham.

Graham says his fourth grader is doing just fine in Sumner Virtual Academy, but his ninth grader is learning through a version of Edgenuity and really isn’t learning much on it at all.

“It has zero teacher interaction, it has all videos, and the students then are self-taught,” Graham explained, “The video courses don’t have adequate information.”

Parents on the PLEA Facebook page share similar frustrations, some say their children are failing.

“Our son has managed to maintain straight A’s with honors courses on Edgenuity, but he’s also putting in eight to ten hours a day to do that, for a program that is supposed to be 6 hours a day of course work,” Graham expressed, “But we have paid for a private tutor, but not everyone has the resources to do that.”

In July, the district posted in frequently asked questions advising that virtual academy teachers would help students.

The district Assistant Director Scott Langford also stated in a Facebook Live that there would be teachers to help support the program.

In October, Langford told Graham in an email: “As I have stated multiple times, you chose the virtual environment for this semester with the knowledge that classes would be delivered through the Edgenuity platform.”Graham said he felt that he would have to put his son in physical school in order to receive the proper help.

After fall break, the district provided access to tutors. the teacher tutor has three days to respond, only to schedule a 15-minute zoom.

“They haven’t provided the teachers to assist these students, they haven’t made available tutors in a regular fashion to assist these students and then when these students fall behind or have low grades are then threatened of having to come back to school in a physical setting or be put in credit recovery,” Graham explained.

Jeremy Johnson, a spokesperson for the school district, told News 2 in an email that the 15-minute tutor sessions offered on a weekly basis are to “maximize teacher availability to all students.”

He added that “students who follow a routine school schedule and work regularly are doing well. The district monitors student progress and issues school level interventions for those students that are struggling or not participating in the platform.”

News 2 inquired with the state department if the district needed to provide more time with teachers for the students, a spokesperson said they will look into it.

Graham is also concerned that students have to come to the school in person in December for end of the semester exams.

Johnson said that is correct, stating: “SVA students are not required to come to the school to take exams for the platform. By state law, all Tennessee students are required to take state End of Course examinations in person at their school. We understand that some SVA parents have apprehension about their students coming to the school building, but that requirement cannot be waived by Sumner County Schools. However, there is a process for students to request a waiver from EOC testing from the state. Those requests can be made through the student’s high school counselor.”

News 2 will continue to follow this.

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are moving forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.

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