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Some virtual learners return to schools

With school getting into the thick of the year, students of Brewton City Schools and Escambia County Schools are making changes and decisions on how they learn this year.

In a year of so many changes for students, superintendents with both school systems have been navigating in unfamiliar waters.

Brewton City School Superintendent Kenneth Varner said the first month of school has been challenging, but believes the students are where they need to be.

“Looking back at where we were just a few weeks ago, I can tell you it was the right decision to start school back.” Varner said. “It is important to the mental health of our kids and our employees.”

With a year that has seen a need for virtual learning opportunities, both school systems have faced some obstacles but have overcome them to benefit the students.

Escambia County Schools Superintendent John Knott said the hiccups have been few and his staff has handled them beautifully.

“It’s the same with any new program you put into place,” Knott said. “Of course you are going to have a few bumps along the way. But you don’t know how things are going to go until you get in a drive. We have  worked through those bumps and our staff and students have done a good job.”

With virtual learning taking place in both school systems, some students opted to learn from home while others attended traditional classes at the schools.

Varner said that at the beginning of the year, as many as 20 percent of the students system wide had chosen virtual learning.

“As the weeks went by, some of those students have made a decision to return to traditional learning at the schools,” Varner said. “We now have about 10 percent of our students remaining in a virtual learning program. We have seen a lot of transition back to traditional learning in these few weeks.”

Knott said some of the county students are also making some decisions that change their way of learning for the 2020-21 school year.

“When we first started the virtual learning program, we had a lot higher number of students participating than we do now,” Knott said. “We have had some students who have excelled with the program and found they could participate and do great. But, we have also had some that have discovered the rigor of the virtual classes is more than they expected. Those are the students who have opted to return to the classroom. You can’t throw everyone into one bucket. Everyone has a different need and we have excellent staff and faculty at our schools to help meet those needs as best as we can.”

Varner praised his staff and faculty with making transitions to and from virtual learning programs a smother journey for everyone involved.

“I have surrounded myself with some phenomenal people,” Varner said. “There dedication and hard work has made this all work through a very difficult time.

Escamia County Schools serves students in Brewton, Flomaton, Atmore and Huxford while and Brewton City Schools serves students at T.R. Miller High School and Brewton Middle and Elementary Schools.