Virtual learning option to end at close of school year

The Marion School District will not offer a virtual instruction program for grades K-12 for the 2021-22 academic year. Marion School Board members voted 7-0 Thursday, May 20, to approve a recommendation from Superintendent Glen Fenter to end its current version of virtual programming at the conclusion of the current school year.

“We have learned many things during the past year,” Fenter said, “and one of the most important lessons is that a virtual-based educational model does not work well for the majority of our students. We are committed to providing the most-effective learning environment possible, and we know that our students learn best when they are physically present in a classroom, with a dedicated, talented teacher leading the effort.”

Like all public schools in Arkansas, Marion offered a virtual option to students in 2020-21 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Virtual students were given online assignments and devices to complete them, but Fenter said despite the best efforts of our staff, many students were not successful in completing their virtual assignments, and learning suffered.

“Our job is to make sure students are learning,” he said. “With virtual offerings, too many students end up falling through the cracks. We would be doing a disservice to our students, our families, and our community to repeatedly rely on an educational system which we know does not serve the best interest of our students.”

Fenter left the door open for some advanced online course offerings, but he said these would mainly be elective courses for enhanced learning opportunities offered to secondary students who have proven their proclivity for success in such models.

Fenter acknowledged that some families might elect to home school or pursue other alternatives in the absence of a virtual option. But ultimately, he said the district’s responsibility is to provide a rigorous, high-quality education that will prepare students for the world beyond high school. And in-person learning is the best way to do that.

“If we have a great school, families will want to be here,” Fenter said. “We are already seeing that in our enrollment numbers for next year. It’s time to get everybody back on campus.”

The first day of school for Marion students, with its new hybrid academic calendar, will be Monday, July 26. Under the hybrid calendar, the district will observe 2-week breaks after every 9 weeks, with its Fall Break running from Sept. 27-Oct. 10.   

With a growing enrollment of nearly 3,900 students, the Marion School District is committed to helping students develop the academic, social, and decision-making skills needed to become productive citizens in the rapidly changing technological world. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit https://www.msd3.org/ or call 870-739-5100.