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Failure fears sparked by virtual midterms

Present members of the Johnson County School Board discuss virtual learning and concerns about the number of students failing. Screenshot.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Managing virtual learning has been difficult nationwide, and Johnson County just started offering full virtual capabilities in the past school year. The COVID-19 pandemic made what was previously an option into a necessity, and with that came growing pains. Johnson County Schools officials revealed concerns after midterm reports showed that a portion of virtual students are on the brink of failing.

“We’re having an issue with that,” Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox explained before the presentation. “We have a lot of our students on virtual learning that are not passing. They’re in danger of failing, being remediated, retention, and that kind of thing.”

This news can come off as very alarming when hearing percentages. For example, reports show that 62.6 percent of JCHS virtual students are failing, and 75 percent of those are seniors, but these numbers can be deceiving, considering course details and school populations. When hearing that 18 percent of virtual students at Laurel Elementary are failing, most people would not know that this only includes two out of eleven students enrolled virtually.

Online student numbers have fluctuated over time but remain very similar. According to reports, virtual learning increased from 355 students at the beginning of September to 388 at the beginning of December. According to Elementary and Federal Programs Supervisor Angie Wills, the only group that decreased during this gap was the elementary schools, which lines up with previous complaints on the elementary level.

School Board members were highly concerned that seniors might not graduate, but Dr. Stephen Long explained that there is a built-in failsafe to prevent this extreme. High school officials have credit recovery built into the second semester in case students fail a required course, and students take 36 credits while only 28 are necessary to graduate.

“If it was frozen today and it had to be determined do they graduate now or not, then no they would not,” said Dr. Long. “Those that we have written down are failing a graduation requirement course. At the high school level, we have numerous measures in place. Namely credit recovery or, if the grade was too low that credit recovery isn’t an option, they retake that course in the spring semester. It’s not a foregone conclusion that they can’t graduate. We’re making every effort to make sure that does not happen.”

The Johnson County School Board reported that these types of issues are common nationwide at this point. Officials suggest that anyone having difficulties virtually should return to in-person learning or reach out for additional help. To view the December 10 School Board meeting, visit the Johnson County Schools TN Video channel on Youtube.