‘Blended learning’ here to stay in Buncombe County Schools

HIGH-TECH HOMEWORK: Blended learning strategies, such as the use of education management systems like Canvas, Seesaw and Google Classroom, have become fully integrated in county classrooms. Photo by iStock

A combination of online and in-person learning proved instrumental to keeping students engaged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But even as the U.S. prepares to end its pandemic emergency declarations in May, the educational strategy known as “blended learning” is here to stay in Buncombe County Schools.

Janet Frazier, the school system’s media technology specialist, presented on the topic to members of the Buncombe County Board of Education Feb. 2. She explained that even prior to the pandemic, BCS had begun incorporating more technology for both staff and students, such as learning management systems like Canvas, Seesaw and Google Classroom. The school system’s technology specialists had also been educating teachers and other staff members on blended learning strategies. 

Back then, Frazier explained, blended learning “happened in pockets” throughout the school system. “As digital learning facilitators taught, co-taught and collaborated, the readiness varied from teacher to teacher, but it was definitely growing,” Frazier said. 

When COVID-19 arrived in the spring of 2020, Frazier continued, that professional development and familiarity with new tools paid off. “With the background that our teachers had from the diligent work of the technology team, we were able to prepare our educators in two short days,” she said.

Blended learning devices have now become fully integrated in county classrooms. The new tools, Frazier said, help students access content or share their voices. 

“There is a sense of independence that students gained by using the device to take ownership of their own learning. We are able to reach students where they are, and co-teaching and collaboration are the new norm,” she said. 

Members of the school board praised the BCS information and technology department for its efforts. 

“I really appreciate all of the work that was done, especially during the pandemic, because y’all were key in providing safe learning environments for our students. And we were more than just one step, we were steps and steps and steps beyond so many [school districts] in the state, in the country,” said board member Amy Churchill. “I truly do believe that y’all were instrumental in keeping this community going and safe during that difficult time.”

Commenters praise FCCLA, express COVID concerns

During public comment, parent Nyssa Rayne urged board members to return to COVID-19 mitigation protocols, including testing and offering masks amid what she said was an ongoing pandemic. Masks were made optional for BCS students and staff at the end of last February.

“Students that are immunocompromised [or who] have family members with cancer, they can’t get COVID. They can’t afford to get it. That’s a death sentence for their family members,” Rayne said. “Y’all put forth some of the strongest COVID safety measures nationwide, and you had a return to school plan which had off-ramps and on-ramps for community spread. Please, let’s go back to that. COVID is not over.”

Three students also spoke about their involvement with the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a national career and technical student nonprofit that helps students expand their leadership potential and develop life skills. The program is offered in Buncombe County Schools. 

February is Career and Technical Education Month, noted T.C. Roberson High School student Logan Davis

“In only just a year of my term, I have learned several leadership skills such as public speaking, responsibility, decision making, problem solving and teamwork. The most essential skill for this position is teamwork,” Davis said. “I will forever have a special place in my heart for career technical education because of the opportunity I was given. Thank you for supporting [career and technical education] and career and technical student organizations.”


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