WACO, TX — Marlin ISD Superintendent, Darryl Henson sent a letter to parents instructing all Marlin Virtual Academy learners to return to in-person classes starting Nov. 2.
A six-week progress report showed that more than half of virtual learners had already used 5 or more absences. More than 83% of the high school online learners were also failing one or more classes.
Seeing these results, Superintendent Henson made the decision to bring all students back to campus.
"We feel like the best way for our students to learn here is in a face-to-face setting," Henson said.
Their first progress report came in late September, and seeing the numbers they knew something needed to change. Making phone calls and even go door to door was of little success. Marlin ISD saw a slow increase but not enough to continue virtual learning.
Marcella Bilchiz has a 12-and 16-year-old who attends Marlin High and middle school. She has always chosen in-person learning because she feels it's better for her kids.
"Nothing is better, they learn more, they learn more," Bilchiz said.
Bilchiz says it's already hard getting her kids out of bed in the morning, and they never would if they had online school.
"Somedays they don't want to get up to get in line, so I think it's better in the school," Bilchiz said.
Precautions, like mask-wearing and extra custodians to help clean highly touched surface areas throughout the day, are just some of the things Marlin ISD has implemented for their return to in-person learning.
"We also recognize we only had one positive case over the past three weeks. Letting us further know our schools are a safe place to be," Superintendent Henson said.
Marlin ISD lost its accreditation in February of this year and with that comes a more diligent teaching environment, another reason why Superintendent Henson couldn't sit back and allow test scores and attendance continue to drop with online learning.
"Engagement has to be at the highest level," Superintendent Henson said. "Sometimes that best instruction does come from that face-to-face teacher."
This is the year of flexibility and there is a plan in place if Marlin ISD needed to revert to online learning.
"We still have our asynchronous plan submitted and approved to TEA," Superintendent Henson said. "As well as our District covid-19 recourse plan that has the mitigation levels if we had to all return back to remote learning."
There is an exception to students who live with immunocompromised family members, as they were allowed to continue online learning.