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East County Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 11 months ago

More parents sending kids back to campus in Lakewood Ranch

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Lakewood Ranch-area elementary and middle schools will no longer offer hybrid option as more students return full time.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

When the school year started, Carolyn Hurwitz had her two sons, Owen and Ike Lippincott, in the hybrid schedule at R. Dan Nolan Middle School.

The seventh graders would spend two days on campus and three days at home for e-learning.

As the first quarter came to an end, Hurwitz had the opportunity to change the boys’ learning modality.

They were planning on sticking with the hybrid schedule until Nolan Middle staff and administrators decided hybrid would no longer be an option due to lack of requests for it. 

Hurwitz knew her sons would have to return to school full time at some point, so they weren’t too disappointed at not being able to choose the hybrid option.

Schools in East County are going to have more students on campus as families feel more comfortable sending their children back to school full time. Because of the lack of demand, many schools have decided not to offer hybrid learning.

Cynthia Saunders, the superintendent of the School District of Manatee County, said changes in learning modalities will be driven by the students and be different based on each school.

Saunders said the changes might take a few weeks to implement because schools will have to adjust students’ schedules and teachers’ learning modality assignments. The goal is to have the changes at the elementary school level done by Oct. 26, at the middle school level by Nov. 2 and at the high school level by Nov. 8. Schools will make changes earlier if possible.

Parents were told at the beginning of the year they would be able to switch modalities at the beginning of the second quarter, which started Oct. 13. Having to wait weeks to actually make the changes has been a frustration for some parents.

Dawn Russ, the mother of a sixth grader at Dr. Mona Jain Middle School and a freshman at Lakewood Ranch High School, said administrators at Mona Jain sent out a survey in September to see what modality parents wanted, so she was baffled when she was asked to fill out another survey the last day of the first quarter, which was Oct. 9.

“It was like, OK, you made this promise, and we’ve made our modality choices for the first quarter based on the statement that you guys will allow the kids to change every quarter,” Russ said. “To hear the school district is not reaching out for a survey until literally the school day before the quarter ends was mind blowing.”

She appreciated Mona Jain being proactive with the survey in September. Her son was able to be on campus full time starting Oct. 19.

Braden River, Carlos E. Haile, Nolan and Dr. Mona Jain middle schools have decided not to offer the hybrid schedule to its families due to a low number of requests for the learning option.

Although Owen and Ike Lippincott were hoping to continue with the hybrid schedule, they are looking forward to being on campus full time with their classmates.

“I’m hopeful they will get back to a little bit more normalcy,” Hurwitz said. “They will have that teacher-student interaction that I think is so important. They’ll get real-time feedback as they’re working on schoolwork. They can raise their hand and ask rather than trying to send an email to find out what they got wrong or if they didn’t clearly understand something from the instruction that was pushed to them electronically.”

Glen Dallman, a math teacher at Braden River Middle School, sits at his desk with a divider separating him from others. Health and safety protocols will remain in place as more students come on campus. Courtesy photo.

Russ is ready to have her son on campus five days per week because the e-learning aspect of the hybrid schedule wasn’t meeting expectations because there was no live instruction and little interaction with teachers unless the students directly contacted the teachers.

Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools have decided to keep the hybrid schedule for their students.

About 645 students requested to be in the hybrid schedule at Lakewood Ranch High while 500 students requested hybrid at Braden River High.

For elementary schools districtwide, about 82% of students will be on campus full time compared to 70% when the school year began. Requests to do e-learning went from 28% at the beginning of the year to 16%.

Colleen Reinert, the mother of a fifth grader at Tara Elementary School, was able to work with the school to have her son return to school on campus full time from e-learning a month ago.

“I’ve seen the way his school and other schools in the county have managed any positive cases in the schools, and I’ve been pleased with the level of precautionary measures they were implementing,” Reinert said. “I thought he would benefit more from in class instruction surrounded by his peers than continued remote learning.”

Reinert said the school made the transition smooth for her son, and he didn’t miss anything.

Julie Fitzpatrick, the mother of two second graders at B.D. Gullett Elementary School, also sent her sons, Connor and Owen, back to school early from e-learning.

“They learned quickly, and I learned quickly that e-learning was just not our favorite thing,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’re so happy [to be back on campus]. They love seeing their friends.”

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