MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A Horry County parent is sharing his child’s story in hopes of shedding some light on what some parents are facing this school year.
It comes after his son’s school told him he had to withdraw from the district’s virtual program altogether.
Sadie Johnston has three children, aged 11, 7 and 3. Johnston and her husband work from home while raising their three children.
His two eldest are enrolled in Horry County schools.
“My eldest is still part of the virtual program,” Johnston said. “It was a struggle. He is generally an A/B student and currently high Cs and Ds. He is in gifted classes. He really struggles to understand everything and do everything because there is a lot of reading. There is not much practice [with] his teacher so he can help him and see the different things he needs help with. He has to organize separate times with Google Meets and phone calls to try to meet with his teachers to try to solve the problem.
Johnston said her second child, Cooper, was also enrolled in Burgess Elementary School’s virtual program. She said he was now faced with the reality of having to be homeschooled after receiving both a phone call and an email informing him of his withdrawal from the virtual learning program.
Johnston said she learned of the takedown over the phone in November and then received an email.
Below is a portion of the email Johnston provided to our school press team, indicating that the sender of the email is the Vice Principal of Burgess Elementary:
“Thank you for speaking to me today. Unfortunately, Cooper will be removed from Virtual School, effective November 10, due to class absences and missing work.
The email stated that the reason for the withdrawal was due to absences from class and absences from work.
“We had been in contact with his teacher, the school attendance officer, as well as the vice principal, letting them know he was struggling and it was very difficult,” Johnston said.
Johnston said Cooper struggled with his schoolwork before the pandemic and hoped it would have helped staff better understand his educational needs for the virtual environment.
“He repeated kindergarten,” Johnston said. “He was younger when he started. He turned five just before school started. We chose to hold him back and have him go through kindergarten again. last year this year. I thought that with her already knowing the situation and knowing that Cooper needed a little more practical help, we would have a better understanding of what was going on. But it happened at the point where they decided he could no longer be in the virtual program.
Johnston acknowledges that Cooper has struggled in the virtual environment throughout this semester. She said her family spoke with the school about Cooper falling behind and trying to catch up, before being told Cooper would be removed from the virtual program.
“I had to have an attendance meeting because it showed [Cooper] was behind on his assignments,” Johnston said. “I was told that it would take a long time for him to get to [any] point of him having any kind of repercussions. I had a conversation with the school attendance officer and she said all we can ask is that you do everything you can and make it up to you as soon as possible. And I told him we were working on that.
Johnston said the school told him that Cooper should either switch to the physical program or homeschool. At that time, school principals informed parents of the time window in which they would be allowed to change programs for the spring semester.
Johnston said brick and mortar was not an option for his family because Cooper’s older brother, who is 11, has a heart condition and doctors have advised his family that staying home would be the safest option for his family.
“My eldest son has heart disease,” Johnston said. “He has already undergone two open-heart operations. He is considered at high risk if he were to contract COVID-19. Her pediatrician told us there was no school.
Johnston said his family communicated this information to school staff and the challenges Cooper faced without more digital interactions with his teacher.
“I didn’t necessarily appreciate the lack of understanding, I guess,” Johnston said. “I thought we were understood. I thought we had a good line of communication and what was going on with Cooper and what course of action needed to be taken.
Johnston said her family is doing everything they can to understand the homeschool environment, which she says comes with an unexpected high cost and resources they are still trying to figure out for the Cooper’s learning environment.
“For me to find all this money for this homeschooling situation is a terrible time. [on] all parts,” Johnston said.
She hopes sharing this story will shed more light on what some families are going through during this pandemic, balancing work-life, home life, while trying to provide the safest and best learning environment for their children. She also hopes that changes will be made at the start of the second semester with the virtual learning experience.
“My personal opinion would be more interaction with teachers,” Johnston said. “More directional time with them would really benefit these kids, designated time, even if it was only 2-3 days a week and not every day, where they sit and learn for the week. I understand that we are all learning and this is all new to everyone. I’m sure we’re not the only family with medical reasons why their children can’t go to school. I just don’t think it’s fair to punish these kids for having a hard time adjusting and being able to complete this crazy amount of work. [I just want to] spread it, even if it doesn’t make a big change, if it at least plants a seed for someone to make some of those changes or at least re-evaluate what they’re doing. I’m happy with that. I just don’t want to see a ton of other people struggle like my son did. »
Johnston said she is now making an effort to bring Cooper to home school before pulling him out of school altogether.
Our press team has reached out to Horry County Schools for a statement regarding Johnston’s experience and to receive clarification on when schools should recommend a curriculum change or home schooling to families.
Horry County School District spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier provided this statement to WMBF News in response to these concerns:
“While I cannot comment on the educational status of any particular student, the virtual environment may not be suitable for all students. Information has been provided to parents regarding second semester teaching options. This information included what to expect regarding the virtual K-12 program and what parents should consider before enrolling students.
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