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Parents express concerns on future of learning in AASD

AASD parents voice concerns on future of learning
Parents voice concerns on future of education within AASD
Posted at 10:15 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 23:49:32-05

APPLETON (NBC26) -- With an Appleton school board member resigning and more details being released about upcoming options for in-person learning, some parents said they're feeling uneasy about the future of education within the Appleton Area School District.

Many Appleton parents have been pushing for the choice of in-person instruction for months. The district announced plans on Nov. 20 to offer a hybrid option starting Jan. 19, which is the start of the second semester.

Some parents said they're happy for the possibility of some classroom time, but also feel the model isn't feasible for most households.

“It is almost logistically impossible for a two-parent working family to manage," said Sheri Hartzheim, parent of an eighth-grade student who attends a charter school within AASD.

Students in grades K-6 will be split into groups for a morning or afternoon session that includes 2.5 hours of in-person learning four days a week.

“Most of it is in the middle of most people’s working hours, so getting their kids to school would be next to impossible," said Andrea Klitzke, whose son is enrolled in kindergarten within AASD.

The other half of the day is scheduled for virtual learning. Wednesday is designated as a fully online day.

Families need to make the decision on whether to enroll their kids in the new hybrid educational model or stay in the Elementary Virtual School for second semester.

Klitzke said she will chose the former for her son, but feels most families won't be able to accommodate the blended schedule.

"It’s not really practical for most working families," Klitzke said. "It’s an option to "chose" it seems, but it actually kind of forces people into virtual learning anyway.”

Students in grades 7-12 will also be split into two groups. They will attend in-person classes two days a week and online three days.
The district hasn't released further details.

With smaller class sizes, Hartzheim said her daughter's charter school is offering four half-days split into virtual and in-person learning with Wednesday being fully online. That's the model Hartzheim said she'll be selecting for her daughter to bring back some sense of normalcy.

Hartzheim said the hybrid educational model will be difficult for families that have kids in different grade levels.

“It’s so disruptive to the family unit," Hartzheim said. "It isn’t the best that they could offer us and we really want to see the best, because that’s what we need for our children.”

Both Hartzheim and Klitzke said they'd like to see the district transition to fully in-person learning like other nearby schools and districts.

“It’s very evident that our kids are failing and our kids are struggling," Klitzke said. "If that’s where they thrive the most that’s where they need to be.”

It's possible the district's back-to-school plan might not happen.

AASD is basing the decision of when to return to in-person learning primarily off the number of new COVID-19 cases in Appleton and the Tri-County Region, as well as key mitigation strategies. If cases surge again, the Board of Education might decide to stay virtual.

As frustrations continue, Leah Olson, the vice president of the Appleton Board of Education, resigned Monday.

In a statement shared by the district, Olson said:

“The continuing pandemic has forced me to evaluate my priorities and commitments. At this moment, I need to spend more time with my family. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve over the last three and half years. I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues on the board, the district leadership team, and all our staff in their continued efforts to support every student, every day.”

The Board of Education is set to discuss filling the vacancy at a special meeting at noon Thursday. The meeting will be live streamed on YouTube.