Metro high school senior raising concern how return to online learning will affect students

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OLATHE, Kan. — Thousands of kids in some of the metro’s largest school districts are back to learning online. A major shortage of substitute teachers during the pandemic was a driving force in the decision. 

Some students are concerned about the switch, and one is raising his voice in hopes of students returning to classrooms soon.

The switch from school desks back to computer screens is an unwelcome change for Olathe South senior Alex Burbidge. He says a shortened spring semester coupled with an online start to fall, just aren’t cutting it.

“We missed out on the final two months of learning and that’s really coming back to hinder me in some of my classes now,” Burbidge said.

Alex is in Olathe South’s gifted learning program, but struggles to pay attention and fully grasp concepts being taught in the online environment.  He’s nervous about not being fully prepared for college next fall.

“I am planning on going into architecture at the University of Nebraska.  That obviously requires, you know, to be very good at math and physics and all that.  And I mean, physics is—it’s going okay for what we can do.  But we can’t do any labs or anything,” Burbidge said.

Feeling frustrated, Alex wrote this op-ed for his school’s newspaper, writing in part, “A total of 27 days of in-person school is not nearly enough to have a productive school year,” and “..the complete opposite of the best interest for students.”  

“I wanted to speak up because I haven’t heard a lot of students speak up about it,” Burbidge said.

Olathe School administrators know remote learning is not a breeze for everyone.  But they say so far, student assessments haven’t shown major learning loss for most kids. Nearly 3,500 kids have taken advantage of district technical and academic support since school started.

“We care about our kids and we care about their long-term success certainly and want them to do well while they’re in our system and someday when they leave our system and move on to whatever is next for them,” said Dr. Brent Yeager, Olathe Schools Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services.

Students are now being asked to keep Zoom cameras on in class, to help teachers better connect to kids academically and to gauge their social-emotional wellbeing. The district wants to do all it can to support kids struggling while away from school buildings.

“Everybody got into education because they love and care about kids and that’s why this isn’t easy for many of us but we’re learning new patience each and every day,” Yeager said.

Olathe schools, and several metro districts are also continuing to provide meals during online learning as another way to help families navigate this challenging time out of the classroom.

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