Over 3,000 students in Rome and Floyd County are taking their classes on virtual platforms.
Last school year when Gov. Brian Kemp shut down the state education wholesale in response to the novel coronavirus, educators had to quickly put in stopgap measures for students.
During that extended break those same school systems worked to put together virtual learning academies. Locally, many students opted in to online learning programs for a pre-specified period of time. Having that option also gave quarantined or COVID-19 positive students the ability to continue their education.
“It’s like running an entirely separate school system,” Floyd County Schools Assistant Superintendent John Parker said. “It’s a complicated puzzle to try to piece together.”
Each system has over 20% of their students enrolled in their respective virtual learning academies. Rome is about 26% and Floyd is just above 20% enrollment.
That equates to 1,579 Rome City School students and 1,853 Floyd County School students taking their entire course load online.
“We’re getting positive feedback,” Rome City Schools Assistant Superintendent Dawn Williams said. “There were hiccups initially getting students logged in and understanding what the schedules are. Teachers and parents have been positive about it.”
There are similarities in how each system goes about its virtual instruction. Both school systems supplied students with Chromebooks and both school systems use the Google Classroom as the learning management system.
Everything, with the exception of third-party learning applications like Edgenuity and Zearn Math, is done in that virtual classroom environment. Assignments are given and turned in virtually and teachers give online lessons throughout the day.
Rome’s elementary, middle and high school students all have teachers assigned to real time virtual classroom instruction.
That means some teachers, especially on the high school level, teach some classes in person and then switch over to a class period of virtual instruction.
The program is similar in the county school system with the exception that secondary students — middle and high school — use virtual courses tailored to their specific needs.
“We provide a quality environment so our students can learn and succeed,” said the FCS Director of Online Innovation and Learning Celena Arrington.
They have access to teachers but aren’t working with teachers face to face in every course, Parker said.
“They do have a contact in every subject area,” Parker said. “We’re taking this just as seriously as a traditional school environment.”
That means attendance is taken, assignments expected to be turned in and grades will be given just like regular classes.
Even with any child’s education, parental involvement is as much as, if not more, important with virtual lessons.
“It really doesn’t work without parents, especially at a K-5 level,” Parker said.
“Parent involvement is crucial to the program,” she said.
Eventually, having virtual instruction was something which would have come about anyway. Now that school systems have had a crash course in virtual classes, Williams said it’s not going away.
“We want to make sure we’re as prepared as possible,” Williams said. “It’s here, we’re doing it. There are going to be reasons why we need to continue these programs.”