DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A long and very difficult semester is over, or virtually over, for some 3,600 DeKalb County students enrolled in the school district’s online FLEX Academy, which was beset with overcrowding and technical and communications problems during the fall semester.
An internal memo provided to Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher showed that FLEX teachers were to submit final grades Friday, Feb. 4 -- a month after grades were due for students attending in-school classes.
FLEX requires students to work almost entirely on their own.
Most of the roughly 175 teachers are adjunct or part-time instructors who also work full-time teaching in-school classes.
The adjuncts are required to work 10-hours a week, but they are only required to be available for online, face-to-face instruction or tutoring two hours a week.
Students have to get their assignments online, complete the work and submit independently, and many have struggled.
School officials told Channel 2 Action News last month, “there is no mismanagement” in the program, but a video of a Jan. 7 meeting involving teachers and school administrators revealed that everyone was well aware how badly managed FLEX was from the beginning of the first semester.
“Understand that it’s not the kids’ fault. That first couple of weeks -- not just a couple, six weeks -- it’s not their fault. It was an almost impossible situation,” Keatra Wright, the school administrator in charge of all online instruction, told teachers Jan. 7. “We messed up first semester, so we’re making up for that. That’s it. That’s the bottom line.”
In a mid-November email obtained by Channel 2 Action News, Wright described the problems as “unprecedented enrollment, technology failures, miscommunications and staggering workloads...”
The accumulated problems caused the district to push back the final deadline for students to submit their assignments. One extension was ordered by the office of Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris.
- Nearly half of students in DeKalb school FLEX Academy are failing, investigation finds
- DeKalb parents say they are running into problems with county’s online teaching program
- Investigation finds more than 150 DeKalb County teachers were not paid for entire semester
By comparison, the rest of DeKalb’s students were expected to submit all work for first semester by Dec. 17.
An email provided to Channel 2 Action News shows that school officials directed FLEX teachers to submit their final fall grades last Friday, Feb. 4.
But it’s not clear that was the case for all FLEX students.
Dianna Hunter, whose son was enrolled in FLEX, says a teacher told her, “They have to be in today,” which was Feb. 9.
For Hunter, that is more evidence that FLEX was widely mismanaged. And she said it was especially ineffective for her son who has an IEP, or an Individualized Education Program, because of attention deficit disorder.
Hunter said her 16-year-old son, Brocari, was enrolled in FLEX last fall without her authorization.
Technical problems haunted his first semester.
Brocari Hunter said he was unable to log into the FLEX system after late October.
“He fell through the hole. It wasn’t a crack. It was a hole,” his mother told Belcher.
After an interview with Channel 2 Action News on Jan. 25, Dianna Hunter said school officials moved her son out of FLEX and back into a regular high school.
“He deserves to have someone that can assist him when he’s having trouble, and he didn’t have that,” Dianna Hunter said.
Channel 2 Action News has filed an open records request with the school district to find out the distribution of fall grades for students enrolled in FLEX.
As we reported in January, records obtained by Channel 2 Action News revealed that 46% of about 21,000 FLEX grades were failing, as of Jan. 14.
We’ve also requested the number of FLEX students who -- like Brocari Hunter -- have special needs stipulated in an IEP.
Some experts believe an independent study program with little access to instructors is a bad fit for such students.
The school district did not provide a statement for our story.
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