Some Lafayette Parish Parents Face Challenges with Online Learning

David Reed

@DavidGatesReed1

Feature Photo: A screenshot of Edgenuity’s graphical user interface from their tutorial video, “The Edgenuity Student Experience.” Edgenuity is one of the many curriculums various schools in Lafayette are offering to their online students this semester.

As school in Lafayette Parish enters its third week, many parents who opted to place their children in Lafayette Online Academy (LOA) rather than face-to-face classes due to safety concerns regarding COVID-19 are dissatisfied with how the Lafayette Parish School System handled moving so many students to online classes this semester, specifically in terms of communication.

“I really appreciate the teachers at our school, they’re bending over backwards to help us,” Lafayette Parish parent Nadine Melancon said. “So as far as the staff, I’ve been very happy with it. It’s just everything else like the communication, the explanation of how all this is going to work, all of that is just, yeah, a disaster.”

Melancon said the schoolwork is straightforward enough, but navigating the website’s user interface to access the students’ work is difficult.

Other parents like Renee Box, who is also a teacher for Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, said her family found it somewhat difficult to navigate as well.

Melancon, a stay home mother, said she cannot imagine how working parents are supposed to juggle helping their children with LOA and working their jobs at the same time.

“I have no idea how a parent that’s working is going to manage this,” Melancon said.

Box said she struggles to juggle the two herself.

“It’s been stressful because of our situation, trying to work and then assist the girls during my lunchtime, or (during) these really, really short breaks I have between classes or after work,” Box said, “Our base school, Myrtle Place, has been extremely supportive, extremely responsive and amazing. They’re really being very helpful, as much as they can.”

However, Box said she does not believe her children are learning much from LOA. According to Box, many of the assignments she has seen involve reading something then immediately taking a quiz on the information. She said she then has to take steps to help her kids retain the information even after the assignment is complete.

“So what I’m finding myself doing is having them do the readings on their own, and then having them come and either reading aloud to me or discussing based on my knowledge of the topic and trying to engage them with the information rather than just passively reading it,” Box said.

Melancon said the pacing and tone of the educational videos used to teach the material caused issues too, agreeing that she does not feel like her children are learning as much as they could in LOA.

“The videos are kind of slow. So, my fourth-grader gets sort of annoyed with them because they’re so slow and drawn out, and sometimes they’re almost a little too silly. Like at one point she made a comment that this seems like something for kindergarteners, not the actual content, but they do lots of silly things to make it more fun, I guess,” she said.

Melancon said many of her problems with LOA are due to the last-minute changes the Lafayette Parish School System made to the online academy this semester. However, Melancon said she felt like they should have been preparing further in advance.

“I just wish they had started working on this months ago,” she said.

Roughly the number of students enrolled in LOA in May 2020 vs. the number of students enrolled in LOA as of Monday, July 20, according to the Acadiana Advocate. Graph by David Reed.

Meanwhile, Toni Ventroy, the president of the St. Martin Federation of Teachers said the in-person classes she’s personally seen have been going well. The Lafayette Parish school where Ventroy teaches in-person classes has done a good job maintaining social distancing guidelines so far, but she’s heard a few complaints about some schools in St. Martin Parish, she said. She said whether a school does a good job enforcing COVID-19 guidelines or not depends on the school’s administrators.

Melancon said she is unsure if she made the right decision placing her children in LOA.

“It’s like nothing seems like the right decision,” she said.

Students who started LOA are required to remain there through the first half of the school year, according to the LOA website.

Box on the other hand said she still thinks she made the right decision.

“At least this way I’m protecting my children and myself,” she said.

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