Responses to Sharon Remote Academy

By: Charlotte Foulger — Correspondent

This year Sharon elementary schools employed a special program for students to study fully-remote. Unlike the middle school and high school remote, students who virtually attend the same classes as the hybrid students, the elementary students get their own dedicated teacher. The Sharon Remote Academy is for students from kindergarten through fifth grade. 

“Classes are held over Zoom, and every month parents pick up packets of printouts, library books, and other items from school so the kids can work with the same materials together, but typically from their own homes,” said Ms. Heather Zelevinsky, a Sharon School Committee member and a remote academy parent who was instrumental in setting it up.

As a remote academy parent, Zelevinsky says she thinks the program is going better than she expected, but it could always improve. One issue she brought up is that Remote Academy classes are a lot larger than the other learning models, “perhaps because the program was more popular than anyone expected.”

Zelevinsky says she would have liked a half-day option better, one “with only half the number of students, if state regulations would have allowed it.” She says large class sizes “can make it hard for teachers to differentiate instruction effectively, and that can sometimes lead to boredom or frustration.” 

A parent who wished not to be named says that students can get ignored because their raised hand isn’t seen on Zoom, or they just have to wait for a long time. “It is too much for the one teacher, but she has worked so hard and in return is making it work,” said the parent. 

Another parent says that the teacher was “wonderful, caring and kind,” but that her son’s class has 29 students in it, and it takes them a long time to do even short activities and not all the kids show up on one screen in Zoom. 

In addition to the large class sizes, Zelevinsky described several of the challenges the program has had so far, one of these being how older and younger kids have their lunch scheduled at different times. “This would be totally fine if they were physically in the building, but now at home, siblings usually can’t eat lunch or play or go outside together during breaks, which is weird and an extra daily burden on parents that don’t do anything to improve educational outcomes,” she said.

The first parent also says there have been overall technical issues that are out of the teacher’s control, and students can get bored. The second parent mentioned that students had to be monitored closely with this program. “This program is more successful for our family because we are all home all the time and can monitor what is going on. I find my son daydreaming a lot and I need to redirect his focus.” 

All of the parents who commented mentioned being worried that their kids were not getting enough socialization and are trying to build in time after school for this. This is an extra burden on parents and difficult to do during a pandemic.

Despite these challenges, Zelevinsky also talked about some of the program’s successes. “The hands-on science and art activities have been a big hit, and the kids’ technology skills have improved dramatically,” Zelevinsky said. Several students also voiced their opinions on the program. Zelevinsky’s six-year-old son said one thing he likes is “the fact that I can mute myself on the computer and don’t have to stay quiet all day.”

“My son enjoys the ‘brain breaks’ when they are allowed to get up and dance for a few minutes,” said another parent of the program. Her son values the socialization aspect of the program where he is able to share about himself at the beginning of the day because “all the kids are just dying for attention from the teacher.” Keeping her children at home keeps them healthy. 

The first parent emphasized that “the kids are overall happy and they are safe which is most important.” Her son has learned to focus, be more independent, and gets to learn at home, where he’s comfortable. 

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