AISD pulls the plug on remote learning

Architectural rendering of the future Alpine High School. Groundbreaking is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 10 a.m. Courtesy photo

Alpine ISD held its regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 21, and discussed the ongoing problems of remote learning, a topic of significant concern for the district.

Superintendent Becky McCutchen, elementary school Principal Verl O’Bryant, middle school Principal Cody Patterson, and high school Principal Justin Gonzales, as well as teaching staff, all lent their opinions.

Quoting Texas Education Agency Commissioner of Education Mike Morath, McCutchen said, “We cannot let a national pandemic result in an education crisis.”

McCutchen said that as of the board meeting, 98 students were remote learners, and most of those students had shown higher rates of absenteeism and failing grades than their classmates receiving in-person instruction.

All three principals voiced their concerns, citing a long list of problems with remote learning. O’Bryant said he was “exhausted,” adding that he had spoken with both parents and teachers, and concluded students learn best in an in-person environment where there are no at home distractions.

Patterson agreed, also citing social-emotional concerns, along with internet connectivity issues. He said students’ attention spans were a challenge, and this, in turn, created additional stressors for teachers.

“You have five kids. Someone in the background is doing dishes. The dog is running around. The middle school kid is maybe babysitting a younger sibling, so they are not fully engaged in the discussion,” said Patterson.

Furthermore, he was unable to reach students and parents 70% of the time when making home visits.

Two board members voiced their opinions. Board Vice President Mary McCallister pointed out that students need to be in a controlled environment where there were boundaries, and Dist. 6 member Dr. Adrian Billings was concerned about at-risk students falling even farther behind.

Board members then approved eliminating the voluntary option for online learning. McCutchen announced that beginning Nov. 2, all students must attend in-person instruction on campus, with four other alternatives. Students would still be offered remote learning in the event of a COVID-related quarantine or for other contagious medical diagnoses requiring extended absences.

In other business, Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper senior architect Les Burke provided a construction update on the new high school and the three campus gyms. Burke said he was working with City of Alpine Building Official David Hale to obtain the required construction permits, and said Hale is currently reviewing construction documents.  

Burke then asked trustees to consider approval of air conditioning materials for the gyms that would provide a cost savings of approximately $110,500, along with air conditioning material at the high school practice gym at a cost of approximately $140, 800, and trustees approved.

Alpine ISD CFO Tucker Durham then announced good news, saying that Alpine ISD was recently awarded two grants, one in the amount of $113,000 and another one at $58,000, while a third one in the amount of $59,000 was pending.

Finally, Gonzales announced that student Brandon Rice was recognized by the College Board Recognition program as a top scholar as a result of exemplary performance on the PSAT/SAT exams.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 5:30 p.m. at the high school library.

Alpine ISD held its regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 21, and discussed the ongoing problems of remote learning, a topic of significant concern for the district.

Superintendent Becky McCutchen, elementary school Principal Verl O’Bryant, middle school Principal Cody Patterson, and high school Principal Justin Gonzales, as well as teaching staff, all lent their opinions.

Quoting Texas Education Agency Commissioner of Education Mike Morath, McCutchen said, “We cannot let a national pandemic result in an education crisis.”

McCutchen said that as of the board meeting, 98 students were remote learners, and most of those students had shown higher rates of absenteeism and failing grades than their classmates receiving in-person instruction.

All three principals voiced their concerns, citing a long list of problems with remote learning. O’Bryant said he was “exhausted,” adding that he had spoken with both parents and teachers, and concluded students learn best in an in-person environment where there are no at home distractions.

Patterson agreed, also citing social-emotional concerns, along with internet connectivity issues. He said students’ attention spans were a challenge, and this, in turn, created additional stressors for teachers.

“You have five kids. Someone in the background is doing dishes. The dog is running around. The middle school kid is maybe babysitting a younger sibling, so they are not fully engaged in the discussion,” said Patterson.

Furthermore, he was unable to reach students and parents 70% of the time when making home visits.

Two board members voiced their opinions. Board Vice President Mary McCallister pointed out that students need to be in a controlled environment where there were boundaries, and Dist. 6 member Dr. Adrian Billings was concerned about at-risk students falling even farther behind.

Board members then approved eliminating the voluntary option for online learning. McCutchen announced that beginning Nov. 2, all students must attend in-person instruction on campus, with four other alternatives. Students would still be offered remote learning in the event of a COVID-related quarantine or for other contagious medical diagnoses requiring extended absences.

In other business, Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper senior architect Les Burke provided a construction update on the new high school and the three campus gyms. Burke said he was working with City of Alpine Building Official David Hale to obtain the required construction permits, and said Hale is currently reviewing construction documents.  

Burke then asked trustees to consider approval of air conditioning materials for the gyms that would provide a cost savings of approximately $110,500, along with air conditioning material at the high school practice gym at a cost of approximately $140, 800, and trustees approved.

Alpine ISD CFO Tucker Durham then announced good news, saying that Alpine ISD was recently awarded two grants, one in the amount of $113,000 and another one at $58,000, while a third one in the amount of $59,000 was pending.

Finally, Gonzales announced that student Brandon Rice was recognized by the College Board Recognition program as a top scholar as a result of exemplary performance on the PSAT/SAT exams.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 5:30 p.m. at the high school library.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.