Henry County offers online evening classes for grade-schoolers

The Henry County Board of Education, which will open up the schools to virtual learning on Aug. 17, plans to offer after-hours online learning for the youngest students.
The Henry County Board of Education, which will open up the schools to virtual learning on Aug. 17, plans to offer after-hours online learning for the youngest students.

Option seen as way to help working parents during remote schooling.

To combat the spread of coronavirus, Henry County schools decided earlier this summer to postpone the start of school until Aug. 17, and to expand their online courses to include the youngest children, from kindergarten through the fifth grade.

Now, the school district, which serves 42,000 students, has announced another innovation at Henry schools: the youngest students will be able to attend online classes from 4 to 7 p.m., when working parents or guardians will presumably have an opportunity to help them negotiate the computer.

The evening sessions address one of the chief challenges for working parents who have children attending virtual classes. How does a parent hold down a job and oversee virtual lessons and assignments at the same time?

After the school shutdown in March, parents complained that it was nearly impossible to be both a homeschooler and a worker.

While older students proved to be more independent, younger students in particular had a harder time staying focused and needed more parental guidance. The Remote Learning Evening Program is intended to help those students who may have had the most difficulty.

“After examining the experiences from the end of last school year and listening to families across the county, we knew that our youngest learners oftentimes had more challenges with the remote environment,” said Melissa Morse, chief learning and performance officer, in a statement.

“After making some adjustments and enhancements, we feel that this new evening option for the families of our youngest learners will enable greater involvement from students and support from parents and guardians.”

Monica Henson, founder and director of Georgia’s first virtual and blended learning alternative high school, praised the Henry initiative as a refreshing example of a school system accommodating the needs of children and parents.

“I think it’s a really smart thing on the part of the school district,” she said. “Parents will have time after work to do schoolwork with their children.”

Henson said she hasn’t heard of any other school district in the state — or the country — offering a similar evening plan.

All core content areas will be covered during the evening sessions, along with fine arts and physical education components, according to a press release from Henry County. Resources available to students during the regular remote learning hours will also be utilized by families selecting the evening option.

Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said in a statement that Henry’s teachers have undergone “extensive and intensive professional development to help ensure that the needs of our students will be met remotely until a time in which we can safely bring everyone back to campuses.”