Nearly 24 percent of students at the high and middle school levels in the Port Washington school district are learning remotely, new data shows.
At the school board’s meeting on Tuesday, Ira Pernick, principal of Schreiber High School, and Beth Javeline, principal of Weber Middle School, presented the figures on how many students were learning remotely and why.
The data showed that the numbers of students going online for their classes at both schools had increased significantly, with 420 on Nov. 4 growing to 672 as of that day.
Javeline said that parents’ reasons for having their children learn remotely ranged from infection rates increasing to students’ anxiety to wanting the students to be able to see older relatives.
School board Trustee Larry Greenstein asked how the fully virtual students were performing in class as opposed to their hybrid peers.
“If my math is correct, it’s roughly 24% of the middle school and high school students are fully remote, which is not an insignificant number,” Greenstein said. “I understand that they’re not remote because of anything we’re doing, that there are other concerns that are going on. But I guess my question is now that we’re a good way through the school year, how are the fully virtual kids doing in comparison to the hybrid kids? Is there a drop off in performance? Are they doing just the same? Are they doing better?”
Pernick replied that it mostly depended on the students.
“We have lots of students who are fully remote who we would also classify as ‘at-risk,'” Pernick said. “And when we get that combination, those students struggle more academically, they struggle more academically when they’re in school, too, but we can mitigate their struggles much, much better when they’re all in school, than when they’re fully remote. So we have these regular conversations about our at-risk population.”
Javeline added that the district’s counselors had done much outreach to try and convince parents to turn to the hybrid model.
“Our counselors have been reaching out to the homes to try to convince parents to bring students back in,” Javeline said. “We have been reaching out to the families, we’ve also been asking them what’s going on at home. You know, some parents aren’t around. So then students naturally it’s hard for them to pay attention when they’re in their own home.”
Pernick said that letters had been sent home to parents to ask if they would send their children remotely or on a hybrid system for the last half of the year.
“I can tell you that that letter all by itself set off another whole round of lots of phone calls,” Pernick said, though he did not have exact figures for how many students would be remote for the rest of the year. “I think it was the right decision to send that letter and to ask parents, especially at the high school level, where I think there may be some more parent-child engagement about whether or not they’re going to be a remote or hybrid student, we want those conversations to take place at home. So I think the opportunity to get families to do that, again, is a good thing. But I anticipate we’re gonna have – well we’ve already had lots of phone calls – [we expect] many, many, many, many more.”
Trustee Deborah Brooks asked if parents would be given the opportunity to choose again at the end of the third quarter should cases go down. David Meoli, assistant superintendent
for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said there were no plans for now, but that some parents had asked about that option.
“It’s been a very long year, and we forget where we were only a few months ago, but in the beginning we asked people to commit through the whole year,” Meoli said. “And then we, you know, realized that that was probably a big commitment to make. And we asked them to make a commitment for the half of the year, for the semester. So, you know, just as you saw with Weber Wednesdays, we continue to learn, we continue to look at things, we continue to evaluate. The answer to your question is that the letters that went out asked parents to make a commitment for the rest of the year. But we have heard a lot of comments to the effect that they’d like another opportunity in quarter four.”
Decisions for the next half of the year from Weber parents will be due by Jan. 25, and from Schreiber parents by Feb. 1.
The Port Washington Board of Education will next meet on Feb. 9 at 8 p.m., livestreamed over YouTube.