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Russellville schools eliminate one virtual option to help struggling teachers

While the change is a benefit to most teachers, some parents aren't so happy about it.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Teachers across the state are overwhelmed while managing on-site and virtual students.

The Russellville School District is responding by eliminating one of two virtual learning platforms.

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While it’ll benefit teachers, some parents aren’t happy about it.

“I had no idea this decision was being entertained, much less finalized,” said Carol Simmons, mother of a 6th grader.

Simmons’ daughter will soon have to find another route for learning come the end of the nine weeks.

As of now, Russellville students have three learning options, which are Google Classroom virtual learning, Lincoln Learning Virtual, and in-class learning.

The district is eliminating Google Classroom virtual learning for K-8th graders.

According to the district, it’s the virtual platform that’s causing struggles for teachers juggling both virtual and on-site students.

“The burden of time it is taking for teachers to prepare these virtual lessons, to engage with the students, to check on the unengaged students, the time began to increase,” said Dr. Mark Gotcher, superintendent. “This isn’t going to be perfect, but it’s better than what we have been doing. I was concerned for the mental health of my teachers and the quality of the classroom experience.”

Lincoln Learning, which will be the only available virtual learning option at the end of the first nine weeks, is geared toward students learning at their own pace instead of with their class.

This comes as a concern for parents like Simmons.

“If they put thought into what this looks like, they need to share that with us because we just don’t know,” said Simmons.

The district said the Lincoln Learning option is similar to Google Classroom. However, in-school teachers will not have to continue with the virtual work load.

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Gotcher said a Russellville teacher will be assigned to the virtual students and keep up with their progress weekly.

“If we don’t have healthy teachers in the classroom, we are not going to be able to provide a quality classroom experience,” said Dr. Gotcher.