Nearly half of remote-learning only students are failing in Columbus County

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Throughout the last year, the pandemic has been especially hard on students, including those in Columbus County.

At the last Columbus County Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Deanne Meadows announced failure rates were up. 46 percent of those attending virtual only classes are failing, compared to a 26 percent failure rate among those doing part or full time in-person classes.

“I want to say I was surprised,” said social worker and mother, Ashlei McFadden. “But ending last school year, my son was only one of three kids that completed all of his work for those last couple weeks that were virtual.”

McFadden is immunocompromised, and takes care of her live-in 77-year-old mother. To keep her family safe, she enrolled her 6th grade son Myles in virtual classes this year.

She wasn’t surprised at the county wide increase of incomplete school work.

“My son tells me every day that there’s maybe a student playing their Xbox in the background, and the teacher’s trying to correct them,” McFadden explained. “Or you know, we see kids walking around the neighborhood and I know my son’s in class, so they probably should be as well.”

As a social worker, McFadden knew the pandemic added a lot of outside factors contributing to this.

“The parents have so many other concerns right now,” McFadden said. “Where is our next food going to come from? Can we pay the rent this month? Am I gonna have a job? School is just kind of getting by the wayside. But there’s also been a lack of — at least for me — there’s been a lack of communication from the schools.”

McFadden wished teachers had more time to meet individually with families in need of help. But according to Meadows, it’s impossible for many teachers to reach out to every one of the 1,600 kids learning only virtually.

“When you have student who is virtual, each one of those conversations really is individual,” Meadows said. “So you’re talking about a lot of time for teachers and school staff to be able to reach out to all of those student who are virtual.”

McFadden hoped the school system’s new intervention program, which should focus on students who need help, will reverse the damage before it’s too late.

“Not having a proper education is not going to get them ready to move on out of the county or even to become better citizens in the county,” McFadden said.

Meadows said Columbus County Schools only plans to offer the virtual learning option to students who show they are able to learn and keep up with assignments virtually this semester. She is hopes to bring failure back down to less than 10 percent by then.

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