Less glitches, more learning: Tri-Cities parents still adapting to virtual-schooling

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(WJHL)- Kitchen tables, bedroom desks, and backyard porches have replaced traditional classrooms as virtual learning heads into its second or third week for many Tri-Cities school districts. While some parents have high praise for how remote instruction is going so far, other parents cannot wait for their kids to return to in-person school.

Parents, like Washington County Commissioner and Johnson City Schools mother Jodi Jones are trying to take it day by day.

“I would say, 80 percent of last week was pretty strong, and the kids were able to be in lessons and learning,” said Jones.

Kingsport City Schools parent Sarah Coulthard also said she’s happy with how her elementary school children are learning.

“Once we got past the first day or two, everything seems to be going a lot smoother, so we’re definitely settling in and starting to get things rolling,” she said.

Coulthard said her children are learning around three and a half hours a day. She believes teachers are emphasizing quality over quantity when it comes to assignments.

“Even if they don’t get a lot done, if they’re doing a great job on one or two things, then that’s really what matters,” Coulthard said.

But Washington County Schools parent Brandon Bates said his high school children are only learning about two to three hours a day with almost no live instruction – and it’s not enough.

“And there’s always three, four, five kids that can’t get logged in,” said Bates. “They’re coming in late, somebody’s got their mics on, someone doesn’t have their mics on, and it’s just been chaos.”

Virtual learning is especially hard for families with working parents, Bates said, and he and other parents are advocating for a quicker return to in-person learning.

“We’re putting parents in an impossible situation while they’re trying to do this homeschooling stuff, this virtual learning I should say,” he said. “Parents are saying ‘Hey, we need to get these kids back in school.'”

Parents are also having to be patient when schools experience tech glitches, such as on Monday morning, when internet issues caused a delay for Johnson City Schools.

“Sure enough, within an hour [the students and teachers] were all on. I could hear some really quality instruction coming from my seventh grader’s room,” Jones said.

Jones is also grateful for the teachers, who she believes are working overtime.

“We actually participated in a one-hour Zoom meeting with our teachers on Sunday to help us work through some of those glitches. Gosh, hats off to them,” she said.

So far Johnson City Schools, Washington County Schools, and Kingsport City Schools have not announced a definitive in-person reopening date yet. The latest reopening information for all regional school districts can be found here.

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