In-class learning versus online learning in the Clinton School District


One year ago, teachers and students experienced a change in education that no one expected. COVID took away fourth quarter in-class learning in every school district in Illinois and learning was accomplished remotely with teacher’s instruction. Everyone hoped school would return to “normal” in the fall.

We have yet to reach that point even now. In the Clinton School District, there is in-class learning at the schools, which requires masks and social distancing. And there is online learning at home using the Edmentum Online Learning Program. A tough decision to choose between the two for both parents and students.

In-class learning isn’t what it used to be, but the teachers are doing their best. Online learning is a whole different story. No teachers to ask questions and no other students to collaborate with. Learning is done on your own.

The Clinton School District established a policy over the summer that required parents make a choice between in-class and online learning before the school year began. After a week, several parents requested a change from online to in-class learning. They were understandably unprepared for the responsibility. It became clear that online learning had some weaknesses, especially for parents and students experiencing it for the first time.

In mid-October, the administration raised the question of online students returning to in-class learning at the beginning of the second quarter.  The teachers had reservations, so the school board made no changes to the policy at that time. The board did amend the policy to allow parents to switch learning styles at the end of the first semester.

Research indicates in-class learning offers the best opportunity for success. Two weeks ago I spoke personally to Curt Nettles, the superintendent of the Clinton School District, and I spoke to every school board member over the phone. Each person I spoke to said they want all students back in class because they feel it is in the best interest of the students. I then attended the March school board meeting and asked the school board to allow online students to return to in-class learning at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The school board discussed my proposal at the end of the meeting. Despite Nettles and the school board members telling me that students should be in school, Nettles reminded the school board that the current board policy restricted online students from returning to class after the beginning of the second semester and he thought teachers still had their reservations. These two items swayed board members against considering my proposal.

Here is the dilemma that faces the Clinton School District. Everyone believes students learn best in the classroom with teachers. The Superintendent told me so. The school board members told me so. And the teachers should believe it or I question their motivation for being in the classroom. If everyone agrees, then how in good conscience can the school district tell students they can’t return?

The answer is they haven’t. Some students have been allowed to return during the third quarter. The returns required “extenuating” circumstances and only Nettles decided whether the circumstances warranted the returns. One person in the district holds the power to include or exclude a student’s presence to learn in the classroom. Superintendent or not, one person’s opinion of what is or what isn’t extenuating offers no recourse.

There are students in the district that want to switch from online learning to in-class learning immediately. I personally know of at least two. I also know that their in-class teachers don’t have any reservations regarding their return. Both of these students have been told no. So why won’t they be allowed to return?  Because of the school board’s policy not permitting online learners returning and their circumstances don’t meet Nettles’ criteria.

Can anything be done to correct this? Yes. Contact the school board members. Their phone numbers are on the Clinton School District website. Let them know your opinion of the board policy restricting online learners from switching to in-class learners immediately. The board members have the ability to call a special meeting to discuss this policy and adjust it as soon as possible. The students deserve your efforts.

Karl Diener

CUSD 15 Teacher (Retired)

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