Parents and students gather at Irmo High School to protest virtual learning.

“Face to face! Face to face!” About 50 parents chanted in the blazing sun at Irmo High School as they gathered Monday to protest Lexington-Richland District 5’s hybrid schedule.  

The 20 schools in the district reopened last week with a new education plan to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Students were split into two groups, Cohort A and Cohort B, to determine a virtual and face-to-face learning schedule. Some students were offered an option to learn entirely online.

Most parents at the protest were not pleased with the district’s education plan, instead wanting students to learn in the classroom five days a week.

Jaclyn Dresch is mother to children in high school, middle school and elementary school. She and her family recently moved from Northern Virginia. She said she believes virtual learning is lacking both in Virginia and South Carolina. 

“So far, just the two days that we had last week was not a good experience on any level. Their eyes are exhausted from looking at a screen all day,” said Dresch.

Dresch’s children were all in Cohort A, so they had in-person classes on Tuesday, online instruction Wednesday and virtual learning on Thursday and Friday. 

 “With having three kids and being very far apart in age, I see the impact it’s having on them at every level. It’s difficult all around,” said Dresch.

Laura Higgins, another parent at the protest, also said she was dissatisfied with the amount of in-person instruction for her children. “We want to support our district leaders, but we want to let them know we want to be back in school face to face.”

Higgins has a daughter in 8th grade and a daughter in 12th grade. Her younger daughter experienced technological issues on Thursday when she was supposed to take the MAP test–a computerized exam to measure academic progress. 

“By the time they finally got her online, just with some issues – she wasn’t on the list, she was supposed to be on the list, yadda yadda yadda, I think she had 15 minutes to take the MAP test, said Higgins.

Kim Stutts’ son, who is a senior in high school, is in Cohort B, and she fears that he is going to have to teach himself this school year.

“I believe the students who were offered five-day virtual classes are getting five days of teacher-led instruction, but our hybrid students are getting two days in-class instruction and one-day online instruction,” said Stutts.

The remaining two days of the hybrid schedule allow for online instruction, which requires students to complete assignments that are posted to Google Classroom.

“I feel like when they have questions, there is an issue with getting responses, not only in a timely manner, but clear explanations. It’s hard to communicate instructions through email,” said Stutts.

Many parents hoped the district would open schools Oct. 8 for face-to-face classes five days a week, but at Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Christina Melton said the board was unsure if that is still possible. “We’re simply not prepared for that,” said Melton.

Protesters believe that virtual learning is hurting their children’s education.

Ryland, a young student in the Lexington Richland District 5 school system, protests virtual learning.