Interest in virtual learning program for next year drops in Barrington Dist. 220

  • Interest in continuing some form of remote learning for students in Barrington Community Unit School District 220 took a nose dive after officials asked families to commit to the program for the entire 2021-22 school year.

    Interest in continuing some form of remote learning for students in Barrington Community Unit School District 220 took a nose dive after officials asked families to commit to the program for the entire 2021-22 school year. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2018

 
 
Updated 5/12/2021 3:29 PM

In a March survey, about 25% of families in Barrington Community Unit School District 220 expressed interest in continuing virtual or blended learning for the 2021-22 school year, even if schools are fully reopened.

But when the district followed up last month asking those families to commit to an online program for the entire year, only 4.8% were willing to do so.

 

"It was not 25%. It actually went down considerably," Assistant Superintendent for Technology and Innovation Matt Fuller said during a school board meeting last week.

The questionnaire, which was returned by nearly 60% of district families, showed that 53.4% said they would not participate in an online learning program and 41.8% did not reply to the question at all.

Broken down by school, the greatest interest is at Barrington High School, with 195 students saying they would participate. The interest waned as the students got younger, with 81 middle school families committed, but only two families of elementary students, both from the same school.

School officials say each grade level would need a minimum number of students in a virtual/blended program to justify the staffing needed. The only levels that meet that threshold, based on the survey, are grades 4, 5, 10 and 12.

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Based on that data, the district's board of education was presented with three models to consider:

• Offer the virtual program only to the four grade levels that meet the threshold for staffing. The estimated cost would be $150,000.

• Create a flexible program with a combination of core instruction and outsourced instruction. There would be additional staff for middle school, one flexible section of instruction each for grades 3-5, and no sections for grades K-2, which would only have an in-person option.

• A third option is similar to the second, but with a section of instruction for grades 1 and 2 and a half-day section for kindergarten. The estimated cost of these two choices is $500,000 to $930,000.

"And, of course, there's always the option, I have to say, of not doing the program at all," said John Bruesch, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While the board has "a menu of options," they don't have much time to consider the next move, Superintendent Brian Harris said.

"If we are going to offer something in this area, of this nature, we need to make a decision soon," he said.

There are federal funds that would cover the cost of the program, he added.

While the number of families interested is not as large as officials expected, Bruesch said it is large enough "where we could offer a program, and we could do it with pretty good fidelity."

The school board will take up the discussion at its May 18 meeting.

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