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An already chaotic start to the school year took another twist hours before classes began Wednesday when the city Department of Education announced that kids signed up for blended learning aren’t guaranteed real-time virtual learning.

After previously assuring parents that all of the city’s 1.1 million public school students would receive at least some live online instruction when the academic year began, the DOE backed off that promise late Tuesday in an internal guidance memo.

Now, the 58 percent of kids whose parents signed up for a blended learning schedule — alternating in-person classes with online courses — won’t be guaranteed that those virtual sessions take place in real time.

That is, they may find themselves watching pre-recorded videos of lessons in which the teacher isn’t actually online at the time, depriving them of a chance to ask for help during class if they don’t understand the material.

Only the 42 percent of students so far signed up to receive remote learning five days a week will be guaranteed real-time classes.

With school populations split up to enable social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, classes have multiplied, creating a severe staffing crunch.

Many parents complained about the lack of live instruction during the last academic year, with some reporting that teachers went weeks at a time without directly communicating with their students.

The city principals union said the move justifies the alarms they’ve been sounding for months.

“The DOE’s last-minute announcement that live instruction is no longer required during remote days for blended learners is obviously an attempt to deal with the staffing crisis that CSA has been warning the DOE about for months,” wrote Council of School Supervisors and Administrators president Mark Cannizzaro in a Wednesday letter.

The union has said 10,000 teachers would be needed to fully staff classes — while City Hall has thus far provided only 2,000.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza defended the 11th-hour decision on Wednesday, while admitting that there’s a level of improvisation to a school year unlike any other.

“We’ve said repeatedly it won’t be a perfect start and we’ll be making a lot of adjustments in the weeks after we begin,” said de Blasio during his daily press briefing.

Despite the switch being announced on the eve of the school year, Carranza insisted the DOE was being as forthright as possible.

Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de BlasioDennis A. Clark

“There are constant variables at play here and what we’ve chosen to do is be honest and transparent with the public in saying to folks our goal has always been synchronous instruction every single day,” he said.

“We’re being honest. Nobody is hiding anything here,” continued Carranza. “You’re almost darned if you do and darned if you don’t.”

Additional reporting by Aaron Feis

News Source: newsbrig.com

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Roughly 3 out of 4 Bexar County parents say distance learning has improved since spring, poll says

SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: This story is part of a series reporting on the latest Bexar Facts poll. Find more coverage on our Bexar Facts page.

Roughly three out of four Bexar County parents say distance learning has improved since the first attempt last spring, according to a new Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report poll released this week.

According to the Bexar Facts poll, 72% of respondents think school districts are doing either a “much better” or “somewhat better” job during this round of virtual learning.

Students and teachers were forced out of the classroom at the end of the last school year due to the coronavirus pandemic and many students have continued remote-learning when school started again this fall.

Some of the changes by school districts this year included requiring teachers to deliver live virtual lessons to kids sitting at home and using a combination of prerecorded videos, self-guided assignments and paper packets to reach students who are learning remotely.

The Bexar Facts poll found 63% of respondents also believe that school districts have done a good job ensuring that students have equal access to the Internet. At the start of this school year, many San Antonio area districts gave out hot spots and Chromebooks or iPads to students, with some educators having gone as far as going to families’ doorsteps to make sure they haven’t been left behind. Teachers and staff have taught parents, grandparents and students how to log into virtual classrooms.

Other findings in the Bexar Facts poll showed 75% of families feel well-prepared to support children in distance learning, with 39% of respondents feeling like their child has fallen behind academically within the past five months.

In July, the University of Texas at San Antonio did a study that found the biggest challenge in educating students remotely revolved around how to engage students and make sure that they turned in their assignments. Sixty percent of teachers in that poll said students turned in assignments less frequently then when compared to students who were in face-to-face classes.

Bexar Facts poll on virtual learning. (KSAT)

A majority of respondents in the Bexar Facts poll agreed that the number of students allowed in a classroom at a time should be limited with 85% in support of restricting the number of students. Seventy-seven percent of those polled also agree that teachers deserve higher salaries, even if it meant paying more in taxes.

Bexar Facts Poll participants weighed in on a wide range of issues, such as the city and county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To view the full survey, click here.

The poll was conducted from Sept. 17-21 by phone and internet in both English and Spanish. It includes responses from 619 registered Bexar County voters of different income and education levels, race, age, gender and political party affiliation. The poll’s margin of error is 4%.

Did you not get called for the poll, but still want to have your voice heard? Take the poll, via Bexar Facts, here.

Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.

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