Remote learners feeling left out at West Genesee Central School District

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CAMILLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The West Genesee Central School District has had grades kindergarten through fourth learning in person, five days a week. Now they’re working on bringing back grades fifth through twelfth.

But remote learners are feeling left out.

As a mom, Marjie Sullivan is worried about her son. He’s an honors student at Camillus Middle School, but after learning fully remote for more than a year, his grades are slipping. 

“He misses his friends, he wants to be socialized,” Sullivan said.

Back in the fall, Sullivan didn’t feel comfortable sending her son to school because the infection rates were high and nobody was vaccinated. Now, both of those factors have changed, so she wants to send him back to learn in person.

“Now that the regulations have been reduced from six feet to three feet, some of the students who are remote want to go back to school. And at least at the middle school, we’re told there’s no room for them, they can’t come back,” Sullivan said.

The district does plan to increase in-person learning for all grade levels. For the middle school, they’re bringing hybrid learners back four days a week. But for all remote learners, Superintendent David Bills agrees that there isn’t room, so remote students are stuck on a waiting list.

“We all want what’s best for the kids and when people say they deserve it, and we absolutely agree, and we can do so to the extent possible,” Bills said.

For Sullivan, it comes down to equity. Her son only gets remote instruction twice a week and on the other three days, he’s given assignments to do on his own. Those who are currently in middle school are getting four days of hands-on help.

The district wants to build its remote plan, but with limited staffing. 

“To completely tear apart the current schedule and rebuild one would create an inordinate amount of changes of those relationships between teachers and students and honestly, to do that would be malpractice,” Bills said.

“Sometimes what’s best for the kids is uncomfortable for the adults, so I think they need to change the schedules,” Sullivan said.

The district could not provide an answer for how large the remote learner waiting list is for the middle school. The elementary school has one, too, but they say almost 20% of parents originally preferred the remote option.

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