Remote learning continues to take shape in Dublin City Schools

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group
Bobby Barnhart, 9, a third-grader at Griffith Thomas Elementary School, participates in a videoconference with his teacher and fellow Dublin City Schools students in the district's remote-learning academy. He is pictured Oct. 7 at his home in Columbus.

If a pilot program goes well, more Dublin City Schools high schoolers could end up watching the same lectures, regardless of whether they are in the classroom or at home.

Jill Reinhart, executive director of teaching and learning for the district, said a dozen high school teachers are participating in a pilot program. More teachers could be doing something similar independent of the pilot, she said, and district leaders hope to expand the practice to more high school classes.

As the semester progresses, leaders are trying to capitalize on best practices used by teachers to improve the district's remote-learning academy, Reinhart said.  

The remote-learning academy includes a total of 5,529 students, or 33.49% of the district's enrollment, Reinhart said. That number includes 2,767 students in elementary grades, 1,339 students in middle school and 1,429 students in high school.

A student’s remote-learning experience could look different based on his or her age.

At the elementary and middle school levels, some teachers are dedicated to only remote-learning classes, Reinhart said. In order to give high school students the opportunity for more course options, teachers at that level instruct both in-person and remote learners, she said.

The district is on a hybrid-learning schedule, she said, meaning a high school teacher could have three groups of students for the same class: An “A” hybrid group, a “B” hybrid group and a “C” group of students in the remote-learning academy, she said.

For this reason, district leaders decided it would be best to start the pilot program in which in-person teaching is shared live with remote-learning high school students, Reinhart said. District leaders also are looking to expand the Google Meet videoconference platform to allow for more small-group work online, she said.

For all remote-learning students, the curriculum includes a combination of live online instruction, independent practice using assignments and supplementary small-group instruction for those who need it, Reinhart said. At the high school level, teachers not participating in that pilot program generally set aside Wednesdays for remote-learning-academy live instruction, she said.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our staff,” she said.

But as the district continues to hear from remote-learning families, staff members are finding that opinions vary.

Reinhart said feedback has ranged from very satisfied to very frustrated. Some parents are concerned about too much screen time for their children, whereas others think there isn’t enough screen time, she said.

For Dublin resident Laura Savage, the remote-learning academy has had a few challenges, but overall, it has been a good experience for her two sons, she said.

Owen, a 14-year-old Dublin Coffman High School freshman, opted to learn online this semester because he felt it was going to be too difficult to potentially move back and forth between different modes of in-person learning, Savage said.

Savage's younger son, Evan, a 12-year-old Karrer Middle School seventh-grader is on the autism spectrum and has an individualized education program, she said.

Evan attended Marburn Academy in New Albany last year, and he had such a good experience learning remotely in the spring there that he decided to learn online again this semester, Savage said.

“He’s thriving now,” she said.

Meanwhile, her daughter, Molly, a 16-year-old Coffman sophomore, opted to learn in person this semester because she wanted to be able to see her friends, Savage said.

Savage said she believes both her sons are receiving enough work to do online.

However, Owen’s school-issued laptop has been a disappointment, she said. The Chromebook did not work properly, she said, and he has been using a family laptop for school.

The security programs on the school-issued laptops sometimes cause Evan and Molly to switch to home computers or laptops to conduct online searches for schoolwork, Savage said.

Savage said remote learning has turned out much better than she expected, but feedback she has received from friends and parents in the neighborhood suggests others might not be having the same experience.

“I don’t think we’re the majority, by any means,” she said.

Billy Barnhart, 6, a Griffith Thomas Elementary School kindergartner, reads a book using the Epic reading website before joining his teacher and other Dublin City Schools students on a videoconference as part of the district's remote-learning academy. He is pictured Oct. 7 at his home in Columbus.

Columbus resident Jen Weber said she already knew what to expect with remote learning for her children, Aurelia, 16, and Charles, 14, who are a junior and freshman, respectively, at Coffman.

When Charles was younger, he had some learning differences that made classroom learning difficult, Weber said. From about the middle of third grade through the end of fifth grade, he learned at home through the Ohio Virtual Academy, she said.

Because of that, Weber said, she already was familiar with necessary parental tasks, such as making sure children are out of bed in the morning and receive mental-health breaks during the day.

“I kind of knew what responsibilities would be on our shoulders with remote learning,” she said.

Weber said her children's teachers have been helpful.

“They have just been bending over backward to provide really good learning,” she said.

Weber said the biggest hurdle has been in using the Schoology online-learning platform. Because teachers use the platform in different ways, Charles and Aurelia have missed assignments that they didn’t see, she said.

On Thursdays, Charles has a private meeting in which he and a teacher walk through Schoology together, Weber said.

“That has been really helpful,” she said.

Like Weber, district parent Ashley Barnhart said her children have great teachers who are doing everything they can.

Bobby Barnhart, 9, a Griffith Thomas Elementary School third-grader, goes over math problems with his mother, Ashley Barnhart, before joining his teacher and other Dublin City Schools students on a videoconference as part of the district's remote-learning academy. They are pictured Oct. 7 at their home in Columbus.

Still, the Columbus resident said, she thinks the district has not offered enough support to teachers to make a smooth transition to remote learning.

“They’re not trained to be remote-learning teachers,” she said.

Barnhart has three children: Bobby, a 9-year-old third-grader, Billy, a 6-year-old kindergartner, and Ben, 3.

Bobby and Billy both attend Griffith Thomas Elementary School.

Barnhart said Bobby is doing things in school that her friend’s kindergartner in North Carolina is doing.

“I’m shocked,” she said.

She said she has found a lack of educational content for her children, who have a hard time engaging during live instruction.

“It’s just not the same as being in person,” she said.

Barnhart said she has purchased supplementary material for Bobby to augment what he is doing online in school. For example, she said, Bobby's math games feel like "filler."

She said the amount of work for her kindergartner and third-grader feels “very minimal”.

If things don’t change, she said, she plans to purchase homeschool material, though she is not sure if it would be supplementary or if she would homeschool them full-time.

ssole@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekSarah