Hamilton Schools officials acknowledge problems with virtual learning program

Some families who signed up for Hamilton Schools' virtual, at-home learning during coronavirus concerns are facing unexpected instructional challenges, district officials said.

During a recent work session of the Hamilton Board of Education, officials overseeing the district’s Virtual Learning Institute (VLI), which saw about 2,600 school families enroll their children, told members there are problems with the instructional provider of online lessons.

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Officials said some families appeared not to fully understand how the VLI program would differ from the remote learning done by students who are participating in the city schools' hybrid schedule.

“There was a general misunderstanding of what VLI was,” said Rick Pate, executive director of secondary programs.

“Many families thought it would be what it (at home learning) was last (school) year,” after all Ohio K-12 schools were ordered closed, he said.

“Some families thought it (VLI) would be an easier route,” said Pate.

But, he added, the VLI program “requires a significant parent involvement” of three to four hours a day, especially for younger students.

The learning programs and their technical support from the company contracted by Hamilton have been plagued with problems.

“This a very difficult program and many of our students are not logging in regularly,” he said, citing district data showing only 40 percent of students are earning grading of 70%or above.

“There is a small percentage of students that this (virtual learning) works for them but this is also a universal problem across the state and the country,” said Pate.

Mike Holbrook, superintendent told the board, the problems with the contractor-supplied computer program are being addressed but in hindsight the supplier “over-promised and under delivered.”

Holbrook last week announced families enrolled in the VLI program, who were originally obligated to stay in the at-home program for the first semester, will soon be allowed to opt out under the district’s new scheduling returning to live classes for all students starting next month.

Pate said “it’s not all bad,” and district officials are realigning teachers in the VLI program and resources to quickly address the shortfalls for parents who want their children to continue to learn from home.

School families seeking more information on the coming schedule changes and learning options can go to Hamilton’s district website.

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