Marshall ISD Superintendent Dr. Jerry Gibson announced Friday that as of Nov. 9, the district is suspending virtual learning as an option and requiring all students to return to on-campus, face-to-face learning.
In a letter addressed to parents of virtual learners, Gibson said that a review of the data comparing virtual learners and on-campus learners through the first two months of the school year has led the district to determine that virtual learning success “long-term is not sustainable.”
The last day of virtual instruction will be Friday, Nov. 6.
Data through the current second six-weeks grading period notes that of the 1,343 virtual learning students in grades K-12 in MISD, excluding Marshall Early Graduation School, roughly 32 percent are failing one or more classes and roughly 21 percent, nearly 1 in 4, are failing two or more classes. At Marshall High School, among 380 online learners, 43.16 percent are failing at least one class, and among 382 Marshall Junior High School virtual students, 42.67 percent are failing one or more subjects.
The fail rate among students in face-to-face learning since the beginning of school is significantly lower, particularly at the district’s four K-5 campuses. Failure rates in at least one class for students in on-campus learning in grades K-5 are currently 6.7 percent (109 out of a total of 1,613 students), compared to 17.3 percent (101 of 581 students) who have chosen the virtual learning option.
The failure rate of students attending campus instruction at Marshall Junior High (832 total students) in at least one class is 27.88 percent, compared to the 42.67 percent of failures in at least one class for online learning.
Those data points, along with the district’s data regarding COVID-19 cases in MISD since the start of the school year, provides the impetus for the decision to only offer on-campus instruction beginning Nov. 9.
As of Thursday, Oct. 23, MISD has experienced a total of 37 cases of COVID-19 among employees and students. As of that date, there are 10 active cases in the district, and the remainder of the 37 cases – 27 – have recovered. The 37 cases constitutes roughly 0.006 of a percent of the district population of employees and students who have been directly affected by COVID-19-related issues through the first two months of school.
MISD’s decision to suspend the virtual learning options joins other area school districts, including Tyler ISD, Longview ISD, Hallsville ISD, Elysian Fields ISD, Gilmer ISD and others in returning all students to on-campus learning.
“MISD will be sensitive to the needs of our medically-fragile and medically at-risk students and will work with those families on a case-by-case basis to ensure and provide a learning experience that is safe and workable for them,” Gibson wrote.
All other MISD students will be expected to return to on-campus instruction at their school on Nov. 9, or withdraw from the district and seek other options which include home school, enrolling in another district or private school/charter school, or enrolling in an online K-12 school.
“We do not make this decision lightly,” Gibson said. “The safety of our students and district staff is our number one priority. We will continue to follow our COVID-19 protocols outlined at the beginning of the year and work every day to ensure a safe, sanitary learning environment for our students. We will continue to monitor on a daily basis any cases of COVID-19 should they arise in our school community, and as has been the case since the beginning of the school year, keep all options open in regards to quarantine, sanitization and safety protocols and possible school closures to combat COVID-19 in our schools.”