DPI report highlights widespread challenges with virtual learning transition

MADISON, Wis. — As districts look to continue or stop virtual school, the state Department of Public Instruction is showing lawmakers what challenges have come up so far.

A survey, mandated in the first coronavirus relief law, asked every district about the challenges and advice they would give about virtual school.

The 97% of districts that went virtual last spring reported many of the same issues, and every district reported challenges, such as reliable internet, parents needing to juggle working from home and monitoring schoolwork, and getting devices and materials to students.

Lawmakers who ordered the report also wanted to know about how much of the curriculum teachers were able to give out. Both Madison and Janesville reported schools were able to deliver 85%.

“I think that’s a really important piece here is that despite what happened, the very little notice to transition, and have very little time to put it together, schools still delivered instruction to students” said Erin Fath, DPI’s policy and budget director. “And we know it’s not perfect, right. It was a challenging for everybody, but I think that was key.”

With some districts continuing with virtual learning, and with this new method open for future emergencies or snow days, Fath hopes lawmakers can take note of what schools need: more resources and the infrastructure to pull it off.

“What is really an important use of this is … lawmakers looking at this so they can really understand and get a better sense of why is this a big challenge, and what should we expect public schools and school districts to be able to do when resources are not necessarily there,” she said.

Fath pointed out this survey also showed what else school brings a community and children. While schools have been closed, this survey found they were still able to deliver 24 million meals to students.