At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, Charles County public school system announced a virtual program for grades kindergarten through 8 in response to concerns from parents about the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, some parents with children dealing with illnesses have voiced concerns over the virtual learning programs.
Lisa Hugh of Waldorf has two sons in the school system. Her youngest son, Preston, attends Mary B. Neal Elementary School, while her older son Eric attends Benjamin Stoddard Middle School.
On July 5, Preston was taken to the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center and later transported to Children’s National Hospital before being sent to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital where he was diagnosed with acute liver failure and aplastic anemia.
Due to his condition, Preston is considered immunocompromised and unable to to attend school.
Hugh said the process of getting her younger son a home schooling option was simple.
“We applied for home and hospital instruction [where an instructor comes to a family’s home to teach] and received that pretty quickly,” Hugh said.
However, things were much different for Eric, who was being tested as a potential bone marrow match for his brother. Eric was initially denied home and hospital education for not having an illness, but Hugh said the school system eventually found a compromise.
Both Eric and Preston were allowed to attend school using a remote program using robots in the school.
The robot is piloted remotely by the child using an app, though the program was delayed to work out final details.
Requests for more information to Charles school officials on the program was denied, citing health and privacy concerns.
Jacquetta Taylor of Hughesville has three children, Rickey, 17, Talynn, 16, and Dominic, 15, who all attend La Plata High School.
During the pandemic, Taylor said all three of her children excelled in the virtual learning program, especially her oldest son.
“He went from [failing or near failing grades] to honor roll for all four quarters,” Taylor said of her oldest son’s performance.
Originally, Taylor had applied to send her children back to school by the virtual program, however, decided against it when she found out the limitations.
“My daughter and I got an email telling us she won’t be able to participate in things at school,” if they chose the virtual option, Taylor said.
In a request for comment sent to school system officials, the district said, “Students and families that pursued virtual learning to not be in close contact with other in-person students should not be in close contact for in-person extracurricular activities.”
Taylor would have liked to see a system similar to the hybrid model used last year, but due to concerns of splitting teacher focus, the decision was made to split the virtual and in-person students completely.
Charles public school system announced that the kindergarten to eighth-grade virtual program would be reevaluated after the first semester, though some changes in expansion have already taken place.
The system announced on Sept. 2 the addition of 175 seats for the high school virtual academy program to extend the amount to 350.
As of Sept. 8, the current virtual enrollment stands at 309 high school students.
Virtual school programs for kindergarten through Grade 8 students currently stands at 247 students of the 450 seats available.