Bay County Asst. Superintendent

Some parents concerned over BayLink option expiring

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WMBB | by Erika Orstad | January 5, 2021

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay District Students were back in school on Monday following the holiday break, but changes are coming for learning options in the spring semester.

BayLink is no longer being offered starting on January 19th.

“It’s a balance of what’s best for the child, what’s best for the teacher and what’s best for education overall,” said Denise Kelley, Assistant Superintendent for Bay District Schools. “All the research shows that the best instruction is face to face instruction but of course following all of the protocols that the Department of Health and the CDC have released.”

The learning option was a response to COVID-19, giving students the ability to learn remotely from their teachers without being enrolled in Bay Virtual School. 

Bay District Parent, Lisa Suggs, said the option worked very well for her son, a student at Mosley High School.

“We’ve got to get this virus to stop,” Suggs said. “I feel like if the option is not there for parents, they’re going to send their kids possibly to school sick.”

She said COVID-19 remains deeply concerning to her and her family, as she has family members with a compromised immune system. With BayLink expiring, however, parents like her will have to choose between sending their students back to brick and mortar school, enrolling them in Bay Virtual School or homeschooling.

Suggs said it’s a tough decision, since she feels that fully-remote learning through Bay Virtual School will not be what’s best for her student.

Bay District Administrators said the data shows that most students using BayLink are not achieving to the level that those receiving in-class instruction are, while also creating extreme stress for teachers and parents. Even though BayLink will no longer be offered, other online options will be available for students that are exposed to or infected with the virus.

“Safety is our number one concern,” Kelley said. “The principals and the teachers are doing everything they can to make sure that the students remain safe but we also have to educate students and so our number one priority is safety along with education.”

Suggs said while she understands the concerns surrounding BayLink, she felt like the decision should have been made at a later time.

“I think it should have possibly been looked at in the Spring,” she said. “Not coming after Christmas and the Thanksgiving holiday and not with the number of cases that we’re seeing right now.”

As of now, Kelley said about 70 percent of applicants to Bay Virtual meet the requirements for enrollment. BDS officials are urging parents to update their information in the parent portal in order to receive notifications on their students and COVID-19 cases at their schools.

Other Panhandle School District Changes

In Jackson County, the i-Jackson learning option will no longer be offered, citing similar issues to Bay County with struggling students and teachers. Instead, students will be able to do remote learning through Jackson District Virtual School or attend brick-and-mortar school.

In Holmes County, the Innovative Learning option will still be available, but students will also be able to enroll in Florida virtual school to learn remotely or attend school in person. 

In Walton County, students who have not been successful with the Innovative Digital Learning Academy option will be required to choose another option or continue with an understanding of the ramifications of that decision. 

In Franklin County, innovative learning will continue as an option for grades K-5, but secondary education options will only be brick-and-mortar or the district’s virtual school. 

Calhoun County will continue using their innovative learning option.

There are no changes to the options in Gulf and Washington counties.

Mostly all school districts are strongly encouraging their students to attend brick-and-mortar school, citing increased failure rates and struggling students.

Photo: Bay County Asst. Superintendent, Denise Kelley. Screenshot of WMBB news video