No more virtual classes next school year for Fayette elementary students

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"Why are we even doing [virtual teaching next year]?" Fayette County Board of Education member Brian Anderson asks at the March 8 meeting. Photo/Cal Beverly.

Virtual to be limited to middle, high school students and only after system permission — 

Fayette County elementary schools will all be in-person instruction for the upcoming school year, officials told the Board of Education Monday. In addition, virtual classes for middle school and high school students will be limited in size and range of courses taught.

Dr. Jonathan Patterson. Photo/Fayette County Public Schools. 
Dr. Jonathan Patterson. Photo/Fayette County Public Schools. 

The reasons: Too costly and education quality is lower, Superintendent Dr. Jonathan S. Patterson told board members.

“Young children learn best in brick and mortar classrooms,” said Dr. Julie Turner, assistant superintendent of student achievement. So when the new school year starts — still planned for August — the county’s 14 elementary schools will be offering in-person instruction only.

By that time, most teachers and school staff members will have received Covid-19 vaccinations. A mass vaccination day for system employees was set for all day March 11 at a site on the Fayette High School campus in Fayetteville.

Virtual teaching of students in middle school and high school will still be available, but at a smaller scale than currently. Parents will have to apply for virtual slots electronically and the system’s decision “will be based on the student’s prior history and parental support,” Patterson said.

As of February, the system was teaching 4,707 students virtually — 1,785 in lower grades, 1,227 in middle school and 1,695 in high school, according to school system data.

Beginning in August, courses taught virtually will be cut back to the core subjects that meet graduation requirements, meaning that many Advanced Placement classes and some electives “like anatomy and physiology” will be available only for in-person students.

“It will be a good, clean virtual schedule for financial reasons,” Dr. Turner said. The system will not be adding teacher slots for virtual-only classes. Turns out, the board was told, virtual-only teaching adds about $3,000 for every course taught, over and above the base costs of the teachers. One goal  will be to have students being virtually taught by teachers from their particular schools. Thus, a McIntosh teacher will be teaching only McIntosh virtual students.

That brought what board member Brian Anderson said would be “an unpopular question”: “Why are we even doing this [virtual] at all [next school year]? It costs a lot of money to deliver an inferior product. We’d be doing a lot of children wrong.”

“Timing,” responded Supt. Patterson. “We have more confidence people will come back to brick and mortar schools, but we don’t know what the Covid situation will be in August. We think the demand will still be there.” He forecast “700 to 800 students” will be seeking virtual classes next school year.

Beyond the next school year, virtual high school is likely to continue, though in smaller numbers than currently. Board members Leonard Presberg and Chairman Scott Hollowell both said that virtual classes will be offered even after the pandemic has subsided.

The board got a report that student enrollment has fallen from last year by 574 students. Current combined in-person and virtual class numbers are 8,273 elementary school students, 4,818 middle school students, and 6,897 high school students for a total of 19,988.

16 COMMENTS

  1. You did leave it out of the analysis for cost reasons. You did mention it programmatically. Also, you didn’t address the fundamental question about average costs. You didn’t include any source nor answer just one accredited school in Fayette County that has costs near what you said is the “average” for private schools.

        • I don’t suppose you’ve considered that she may have a medical reason for not getting the vaccine.? It is reasonable to expect teachers to educate your children. Expecting them to risk severe illness or death in the attempt is not reasonable

        • Wow….so harsh! Are you the type parent that doesn’t enjoy spending extra time with your kid(s)? Or are you the parent that needs school as a babysitter? If the latter, I feel for you. Been there. If you are worried about lessons not learned then just step in and review/remediate/whatever. There are very few parents in FC that are NOT college educated. You can handle elementary level work. Or better yet….embrace the free day and make some memories with your kid(s). Negativity is bad for your soul.

  2. In true government fashion, the School Board has found a way to make virtual teaching more expensive by extending the idea of school districts to the virtual world. To say that only teachers from a given school will be allowed to teach students districted for that school forcibly and needlessly replicates resources to do this. The opposite logic is employed for special ed, home bound, and alternative education programs for the very reason that it maximizes education while minimizing costs.

    Board Member Brian Anderson came really close to the truth of the matter when he stated that it was costing more to deliver an inferior product. The irony here is that taxpayers in Fayette County (and generally everywhere) are paying nearly double the rate of private school tuition for a public education that is merely satisfactory.

    Our public education is, as usual, out of touch with the latest methods of instruction as well as the needs of society. If 2020 proved anything, it proved that it is high time to dramatically expand the ability of parents to use funds earmarked for their child to be applied to educational choices at private or non-profit schools.

    • “The irony here is that taxpayers in Fayette County (and generally everywhere) are paying nearly double the rate of private school tuition for a public education that is merely satisfactory.”

      Another blatantly false statement from PTCitizen. Did you just decide to add this gem for the wow factor?

      • If it were blatantly false you could have posted some evidence to demonstrate it. That you didn’t shows that you know you’re wrong but enjoy calling people liars without basis.

        FCBOE’s budget is $229.5M for 20,126 students for a cost of $11,400.
        https://www.fcboe.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=4557&dataid=16181&FileName=Adopted_Budget_2020.pdf

        Tuition at private schools in our area range from $2k to $5k
        https://www.privateschoolreview.com/tuition-stats/georgia/high

        In the future, I suggest you be a little bit more humble and a little bit more civil. For now, you might want to put some cream on that burn.

      • If it were blatantly false you could have posted some evidence to demonstrate it. That you didn’t shows that you know you’re wrong but enjoy calling people liars without basis.

        FCBOE’s budget is $229.5M for 20,126 students for a cost of $11,400. You can get those numbers from FCBOE website.

        Tuition at private schools in our area range from $2k to $5k. You can get those numbers from Private School Review Dot Com.

        In the future, I suggest you be a little bit more humble and a little bit more civil. For now, you might want to put some cream on that burn.

        • From the website you cited: The average private school tuition in georgia is $8,963 for elementary schools and $11,629 for high schools. I am not aware of an accredited private school in Fayette County that is $5k/year. The other factor left out in the analysis is that public schools offer education for special needs students that most private schools do not. They have higher faculty to student ratios than traditional students. FCBOE is doing a pretty decent job and is one of the few boards in the Atlanta area that made the best of a bad situation with COVID. There is always room for improvement and I was happy to see the debate at the last meeting. Our board members are asking the right questions and the new Supt. brings a great perspective and experience.

          • The “average for Georgia” would include ultra-exclusive prep schools in the metro area like Riverside ($36k) and Pace ($32k). Try sticking with apples-to-apples please.

            You can also go back and read what I specifically wrote about special ed programs instead of dishonestly claiming that I left that out of my analysis.

        • Your assumption is incorrect. The reason I chose not to provide any evidence was in the hopes that you would actually revise your statement, as not only is it factually incorrect – it is a blatantly ridiculous. Now you come out with another “gem” with the incorrect figures of $2 – 5k a year? In our area?

          Here are the stats – which took me all of five minutes to glean from the appropriate websites. You know, something you could have done, but instead chose to make up, to make your non-existent point more salacious.

          Landmark – $13-20k depending on grade level
          Our Lady of Mercy High School – $13-14.5k Catholic/non-Catholic rate
          Our Lady of Victory Elementary School – $9.5-10k Catholic/non-Catholic rate
          Heritage – $13-19k depending on grade level
          Trinity – $6.5-10.5k depending on grade level

          Of course – those figures don’t even cover all of the costs per student. Annual Fund drives, nominal fees for participating in various sports, uniform costs and bus transportation. OLM and OLV also receive funds from the Catholic Diocese of Atlanta.

          So, PTCitizen, as another poster mentioned – I challenge you to show us what private school in our area has a $2-5k tuition, beyond a Mother’s Morning Out program at a local church. You can’t even find a daycare that charges those ridiculously low rates. Your bombastic and ridiculous comments will always be called out when warranted and yeah, you’re really, really bad at math.

          • Stewart – Don’t hold your breath when expecting a regular Fox News viewer like PTCitizen to deal in verifiable truth. Trumpists have deluded themselves so often with “evidence” that fits their narratives (regardless of whether it complies with reality) that they rarely bother to do anything other than find a like-minded echo chamber to confirm their beliefs and then present it as fact. And further, just like their orange führer, they steadfastly refuse to admit error.

            To quote columnist, Molly Ivins, “He was so narrow-minded he could see through a keyhole with both eyes.”

          • The link to Private School Review dot come is posted above. But since you’ve already demonstrated a proclivity to cherry picking, there’s little profit in going further.

          • @PTCitizen – 1. You referred to our “area”. Our area is Fayette County. 2. Private school tuition is not the same as cost per student. A good many of those schools listed have churches that are supporting the school as a mission. Further, as a mission, there are many volunteers that fill positions. 3. Many of the tuition costs shown on the website you’re referring to are for beginning grade levels, with tuition increasing as grade level goes up. 4. You are comparing apples and oranges. 5. You have not made a compelling case for your bombastic and ridiculous statement that private schools are doing it better with half the money. 6. I do agree that public school systems should be better stewards of our monies, but (in this case) to say they are charging double with dismal results is false. 7. Your willful, disingenuous comparison shows how little you care for honest discourse.