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Red Clay parents protest shift in online offering as district moves to Phase 2

Parents protested the state’s largest school district Tuesday over its plan for the next stage of reopening. 

Red Clay parents are required to choose whether their child will attend school online or in-person by Friday, Oct. 9.

But instead of Zoom classes with their teachers like they’ve been getting, students that choose to learn online will use a self-directed, third-party online learning service called Accelerate Education. The district is recommending this option for families with the “flexibility/resources needed to support online learning at home,” such as flexible work schedules or access to childcare. It’s available for students in Pre-K through 12th grade. 

The parents who rallied Tuesday say Accelerate Education is not a good option—but don’t feel safe sending their kids back in-person. 

Linda Reagam’s two sons attend Cab Calloway, a charter school in the Red Clay Consolidated School District. She says only one of her older son’s usual classes is supported through Accelerate Education, which Reagam calls a “canned education platform.”

“If they can’t give us a safe in-school option, I want an at-home option where my kid can actually get the same level of education that he’s getting currently on the Zoom platform,” Reagam said. 

Joe Carrubba’s children go to Linden Hill Elementary—and both have medical conditions he says make in-person school risky. Carrubba was among the parents protesting Tuesday at the Red Clay district offices. 

“I don’t have an option to let my daughter go into a classroom with 24 other kids,” Carrubba said. “If my child’s in a wheelchair, I’m not expecting her to walk up the steps. They’re going to put a ramp in that school for my daughter, or if not, they’ve got to provide her transportation to a school that has that ramp. So why are they not providing us, our kids with a medical history, the same equal opportunity to get the education that’s needed.”

“It goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act,” he added. 

Karen Stewart is raising her grandson, who has asthma, ADHD and is on the Autism spectrum. He attends Richey Elementary with an individualized education plan (IEP) and 504 plan. Stewart says she is struggling to balance helping her grandson with school while working and caring for her mother. 

“Him without a teacher is not an option,” she said. 

But Stewart feels caught between two unworkable options. 

“My husband and I are elderly—we’re 60,” she said. “If we send him to school, I’m risking my family’s health.”

Red Clay spokeswoman Taylor Green said in an email Tuesday the District is committed to providing equitable options to all families—and is reviewing questions and concerns and modifying its plan where possible. She said Red Clay Superintendent Dorrell Green met with concerned parents this weekend. 

A special school board meeting is scheduled for October 15. 

The first full week of in-person or Accelerate Education learning for most students is set to begin Nov. 9.

Students in special programs such as Red Clay Early Years Program, Meadowood, Autism building-based rooms and Project Search will start the online and in-person split sooner. The online option for these students will include online support similar to the District’s current format.

Once families choose between online and in-person learning, they are stuck with that choice for at least the entire second marking period. 

The District says if during Phase 2 the Governor directs schools to halt in-person learning, students enrolled in the Accelerate Education option will continue with that, while students who opted for in-person learning receive instruction in the District’s current format—with their teachers, over Zoom.

Under the Phase 2 plan, students who opt for in-person learning will stay home Wednesdays to complete “asynchronous” activities provided by staff. 

 

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