Father Asks School If Son Can Repeat Grade Due to Virtual Learning Inconsistencies

A father in North Carolina is asking his son's school if he can repeat the sixth grade due to virtual learning inconsistencies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brad Dills said his son Tommy, 12, did virtual learning for the entire school year at Camden County Intermediate School and "struggled" with it despite setting him up with a spot to work online, according to WAVY. Tommy barely passed and Dills is concerned about his son's preparedness for the seventh grade.

"Virtual learning alone is not a reason to retain a student," Camden County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Ferrell told Newsweek. "We were in school in-person in some way starting in October and every student had the opportunity for in-person instruction/learning."

Although in-person learning returned to the school district, Tommy did not go back because Dills' stepdaughter has an autoimmune condition, according to WAVY.

"What 12 year old has the self-discipline and the self-control to sit there in a boring Zoom meeting?" Dills said.

"I'm not saying he was done wrong, I'm not saying he didn't have the opportunity. I'm saying he messed up; he deserves to repeat the sixth grade," he added. "Not necessarily as a punishment, but because he didn't learn what he needs to learn."

Ferrell said "school principals have the authority to make the final decision on promotion and retention in North Carolina."

That means it is up to Camden County Intermediate School Principal Bonita Robinson to decide on whether Tommy gets held back.

Newsweek reached out to Robinson but did not hear back in time for publication.

"It is rare that a parent requests their child be retained," Ferrell said. "It is more common that a parent requests that their child not be retained."

He detailed that when evaluating grade retention or promotion for a student, principals consider at a minimum grades, state assessments, local assessments, social and emotional factors and, input from parents and teachers.

Social and emotional factors involve a student's age and whether or not the student has been held back previously.

"To my knowledge, we only have one student whose parent is requesting their child be retained this school year," Ferrell said.

He declined to discuss the specifics of Tommy's situation since he is only able to talk about a student with a parent or legal guardian.

Although Dills works two full-time jobs, he told WAVY he had to relearn algebra to teach Tommy.

"It was less than successful," he said.

Math used to be Tommy's favorite subject but it became boring to him due to virtual learning.

"If I would get busy doing my work and look over, he'd be off task," Dills told WAVY. "If I stayed on him and kept him on task, I'd fall behind. It was just lose/lose, no matter how I did it."

A CDC study published in March revealed that "virtual instruction might present more risks than does in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors."

"Children not receiving full-time, in-person instruction and their parents might need additional supports to mitigate pandemic impacts," the study said.

Online Teaching Materials
James Shaw, an employee of Twinkl, prepares online teaching materials at his home on Jan.7 in Stoke on Trent, England. A father of a student at Camden County Intermediate School in North Carolina is asking if his son can repeat the sixth grade due to virtual learning inconsistencies. Nathan Stirk/Getty Images