#childsafety | Some Montco Students To Boycott Online Classes, Demand In-Person

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA — A group of parents and protesters in one Montgomery County town are calling on students to boycott virtual classes next week as part of a nationwide strike to reopen schools to in-person instruction.

The group in Abington is also planning a protest at the school district on Thursday evening as they tout that “virtual learning is not learning.” Abington School District, like several other districts around Montgomery County, has kept all classes online since the school year began in September. Others have begun to slowly reopen to limited in-person instruction or hybrid programs.

“The educational, mental, and social needs of our children are being ignored,” says Gina Glaviano, one of the founders of the Facebook group, “Reopen Abington Schools.” The group has more than 600 members and is active, with dozens of posts per day.

>>Where Montgomery Co. Schools Stand On Reopening In-Person Classes

It’s not yet clear how many students may be participating in the strike next week. The nationwide “USA Reopen Schools Unite” protest calls for students to refuse to log in from Oct. 19 through Oct. 25. Organizer Stephanie DeVito says they are encouraging Abington students to participate on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. The school district has not said what, if any, consequences students may face for “striking.” Patch has reached out to Abington for comment on this issue.

The most recent proposal, put forward at the Tuesday night school board meeting, would give parents the option of remaining fully virtual or allowing students to return to classes for two half-days of in-person instruction. The other two days would be online. Wednesday would be online for all students. All K-12 students would be divided into three “cohorts” to minimize the total number of students in classes at once.

Glaviano, who is strongly against this plan, says dissenting voices have not been heard by the Abington School Board during these recent meetings.

“Any proposed plan should be a viable option for all members of the community,” Glaviano says. “A plan which involves transportation mid- day, twice a week is excluding the needs of two- parent working and single-parent families.”

Beyond compromising education, protesters note the burden being placed on parents struggling to balance work and school. Glaviano says she and her husband are essential workers and they’re being faced with impossible choices.

“The children of parents working outside of the home in the medical field and law enforcement deserve better,” she adds. “We shouldn’t be forced to choose between providing essential services to our community and educating our children.”

The school district said in early September that the start of virtual classes was going well. Superintendent Jeffrey Fecher said the virtual instruction program was developed using feedback from the experience during the spring, with new technologies added to make learning more “synchronous.”

“We are continuing to provide professional development for our staff, and as we acclimate to this atypical educational format for both students and staff, we will adjust our program and processes as necessary,” Fecher said at the time. “Additionally, we recognize and appreciate the efforts of our District families as critical partners in working together to create successful learning experiences for our students.”

But even parents who are pleased with how the system is working are concerned about the quality of education when they are unable to supervise their children.

“I stayed home this week to help transition, but I am wondering what is going to happen when I am not there,” parent Jennifer Hackford told Patch, as part of a survey of parents regarding the start of the school virtual school year. “I think that this virtual option is putting kids who have parents who work out of the home at a disadvantage.”

In a Sept. 25 survey, 28 percent of parents said that if a hybrid format moved forward, they would still remain in the all-virtual option.

But it’s not clear to what extent students will support the idea of a protest to return to schools. According to another survey taken by the school board on Sept. 18, and published at the Oct. 13 meeting, 61 percent of students are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the virtual program, and 22 percent are “neutral.”

The protest Thursday night will take place at 6 p.m., at the school district’s administration building, on 970 Highland Avenue. Not all parents are on board, with many saying that children should not be brought into the debate.

“This is not the right way to do it,” one parent shared. “This type of behavior risks your kids’ educational future even worse.”

“It’s not about the kids,” commented local resident Bob Allen. “It’s the parents nor wanting the responsibility. They would rather risk their children and others. Abington is doing things the correct and safe way. If things look safer in the future then start in school after the Christmas break.”

The school board is holding a special meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. to take action on the proposals raised Tuesday. A live stream of that meeting will be available on Youtube.

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