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Talawanda students decide whether to go back in-person or remain remote

<p>The Talawanda School District closed for the rest of this week due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and staff shortages.</p>

The Talawanda School District closed for the rest of this week due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and staff shortages.

Talawanda School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously to allow students the option of going back to classes in-person on Oct. 29 or to remain remote through the semester. 

After hearing she would be given a choice to stay online or return to in-person classes, Talawanda junior Ellie Garland said the decision was easy. 

“I'm going back in-person because online school for me personally doesn't work too well,” Garland said. “I don't feel like I'm getting as much as I possibly can out of the classes.”

She said her teachers are doing the best they can, but it just isn’t the same as in-person experience. 

The district had been entirely remote since the spring. The board renewed its decision to remain online during its Aug. 3 meeting.

Garland said she was disappointed when Talawanda announced it’d be continuing the online format through at least part of the fall semester.

“I was really sad, because I didn't think it was going to drag on for that long,” Garland said. “I understand the reasons why they wanted to continue online, but that didn't make it any easier.”

Edward Theroux, Talawanda’s superintendent, said the district will send out a survey to Talawanda students to find out how many want to return in person or remain remote. 

Theroux said students in-person at Talawanda may have a different teacher than they had online depending on how many teachers Talawanda has and the certifications they possess. 

“Not all teachers can teach all grade levels or all subjects,” Theroux said, “so we have to ensure that … we have enough teachers to do the face-to-face plus the remote learning.”

He said Talawanda may consider bringing in a supplemental ‘platform educational program’ like Edmentum, if the district doesn’t have enough teachers. Talawanda has not yet confirmed if it will be using this program. 

“The idea of Talawanda teachers working with Talawanda students, we’ve all said that’s a really important component,” board member Rebecca Howard said.

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The board considered a hybrid option or alternative scheduling but ultimately voted to allow students to choose in-person or online instead. 

Talawanda junior Owen West Poley said he and his two siblings who go to Talawanda would remain online.

“We just decided we were going to stay online because my mom’s immunocompromised, and so we didn’t want to take a risk,” West Poley said. 

Garland said many of her friends who have at-risk family members are staying home out of concern for spreading the virus. 

“It would be very, very, very dangerous for them to go back to school and possibly bring the virus home to that family member,” Garland said. 

The board’s decision comes after many parents last month protested the district’s decision to remain online only. The protest took place outside of the Board of Education’s offices, and protestors asked the board to allow parents to choose whether they wanted to go back in person or remain online.

West Poley said he’s usually really social, so online schooling has been difficult. 

“It was a hard decision,” West Poley said. “I’m so tired of not seeing everyone … but we’ll just do it for a little while longer.”