Auburn City Schools began an academic year like no other, as students started school this week in the midst of a pandemic, with some returning to on-campus instruction and some opting for an online setting.
More than 6,000 students are attending school using the traditional model of on-campus instruction, while more than 2,000 opted for remote learning, said ACS Superintendent Cristen Herring at Tuesday's Board of Eduction meeting. A total of 8,850 students are enrolled in Auburn City Schools this fall.
While many parents have expressed relief and excitement at their children returning to school, other parents of children learning remotely expressed frustration, particularly with the school system's choice of using Edgenuity as the platform for remote instruction for students in grades 8 through 12.
While school started for most students learning remotely via ACCESS in grades 7 and below, students in grades 8 through 12 are still waiting as Edgenuity has not provided log-ins for students, according to multiple parents who shared their frustration with the BOE at Tuesday's meeting.
"Advanced classes and math classes are live taught virtually via WebEx," said ACS parent Beth Sweeney. "All the other classes are on the online platform, so this is not a virtual option because you're not getting Auburn City Schools teacher instruction."
Sweeney told the Board that she is "beyond frustrated" and that she called 51 school systems throughout the state, and that almost all are not using Edgenuity.
"Edgenuity has not uploaded our students to their system, so they have no log-ins, so they have no class, so they have no work," she said.
She also noted Edgenuity's ties to former Alabama House Speaker and convicted felon Mike Hubbard, who had a charge upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court for a $210,000 consulting contract with Engenuity.
"You are getting a program, a program that was initiated for credit recovery and that's been paying Mike Hubbard," she said.
Two other parents echoed some of Sweeney concerns, and criticized the Board of Education for a lack of communication by the school system.
"On July 14, I sent an email to all of you in reference to the communication and what I felt was a lack of communication to parents in the community related to the start of school. I did receive one reply," said Florence Holland, who has three children in Auburn City Schools, including a ninth-grader and 11th-grader in remote learning. Holland also serves as the president of the PTO at Auburn Junior High School.
"Now that I've selected to become a remote distant learning parent ... I'm still not amused by the communication," she said. "I think communication needs to be stepped up in terms of not just emails that possibly go out."
Holland added that she also had been approached by parents who want to continue practicing social distancing and wanted to know whether the board's meeting would be live-streamed.
"Several parents had asked if the meeting was going to be streamed, and I was told, 'no' again," she said.
Michelle Mattingly, a parent of an 8th grade remote learner, also had harsh criticism for the Board for the school system's use of Edgenuity.
"I'm not as patient as Florence is," she said. "I'm extremely upset at this point. I would like to know who decided that we were using Edgenuity as our company. We are getting mixed messages from the schools. The schools and school board, when we call, are telling us that the state of Alabama is requiring Edgenuity to be used. The state of Alabama said this is a local choice. I think we deserve some answers.
"Essentially, I look at (Edgenuity) as the puppy mill of credit recovery. It's awful."
Superintendent Herring declined to be interviewed about the use of Edgenuity after the BOE meeting ended on Tuesday.