Brookfield schools will transition students whose parents want them to remain remote learners for the remainder of the school year to an outside vendor starting with the beginning of the third nine weeks on Jan. 18.
Parents have been receiving calls this week informing them of the decision and asking them to decide by Dec. 18. Director of Teaching Learning and Accountability Adam Lewis said the deadline has been extended to Jan. 6.
“I’ve heard a lot of concerns over the last day or so, since these phone calls went out, and I think there’s a lot of misconceptions,” Lewis said Dec. 11. An email sent to parents later that day tried to clear up some of the misconceptions.
promo“These are still Brookfield students,” Lewis said. “They’re still gonna have access to the supports that they’ll need from the district. It’s not like we’re dumping these kids and saying, ‘Hey, you know, you’re going remote, good luck.’ That is not at all the message that we want out there.”
Brookfield Local Schools have been all-remote since Nov. 17 because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on staff, and the Trumbull County Combined Health District’s recommendation. The move to transition students who will remain remote learners anticipates that students will be brought back into school for in-person instruction sometime before the school year is out, although Lewis said he could not predict when that might occur.
“We’re not gonna do that until it’s safe,” he said. “That lends itself to another issue, because we know they’re gonna be families that are not comfortable sending their children to school. When they have 90 percent of their kids back in the building, they’re (teachers) gonna be teaching those kids directly, and we worry that our online learners are not gonna get the same level of instruction.”
The district has chosen to hire K-12 Learning Solutions, which recently changed its name from Fuel Education, to teach all-remote learners in grades six through 12, and Jefferson County Virtual Learning Academy for the lower grades. The district has used Fuel Ed for years for credit recovery and supplemental high school courses. The vendors will be paid with the school’s CARES Act proceeds.
“What our fear is, and this specifically, when you look at middle school, high school, specifically high school, when you talk about credits,” Lewis said. “If we allow students to continue the way that they are now, and then we go all in again, we cannot switch those kids at that point to an online platform. The credits won’t align. We worry about the level of instruction that those students (online learners) would get. The reason that there’s such a heavy commitment is because we can’t start switching kids midway through the third quarter. Everything is semester-based.”
Brookfield personnel will monitor students who are served by an outside vendor, and those students will have access to Brookfield tutors and other services afforded Brookfield students, Lewis said. They also will be able to participate in extracurricular activities, he said.
Fuel Ed does not offer all of the same elective classes that Brookfield does, so Brookfield officials will talk to each student’s family individually to set their schedules, Lewis said.
“We still have time,” he said. “The second semester doesn’t start until Jan. 18. It’s manageable that we can have those one-on-one conversations.”
If school resumes in-person instruction, Lewis said he believes that many students who had been remote all year will come back to school. However, school officials do not want to be seen as trying to pressure students to return to in-person classes.
“I think we should always put safety of your child first and then we’ll do everything in our power to support that kid, knowing that this is a weird situation,” he said.