When it comes to Arlington Public Schools’ rollout of its 2021-22 virtual-learning option, September ended as it began – with Superintendent Francisco Durán and School Board members engaged in both damage control and a mea-culpa tour.

Despite promises to School Board members and the community in early September that the calamitous online-learning rollout would be wrangled under control, “we are not yet where we need to be,” Durán acknowledged to School Board members on Sept. 30.

He offered an apology “for the experience many of our students have had.” “I understand the frustration and the disappointment,” Durán said. “They’ve not had what they should have had in terms of the expected instructional experience. I am committed to make this right.”

Families of only about 3 percent of the student body opted for enrollment in the online program this school year, but that group includes many students with specific health or educational concerns. “They and their parents placed trust in us,” Durán said.

On the positive side, the school system has been hiring staff to fill out the ranks of the online option, he said, and some families were reporting no significant problems.

The superintendent promised a full accounting to School Board members on Oct. 14. When that day comes, Durán and staff should be prepared with “a concrete plan for ensuring that any time that might have been lost at the beginning of the school year is made up in a creative way,” board member Cristina Diaz-Torres said. (Durán said that indeed would be part of the presentation.)

The meltdown had a number of root causes, but left many in the community scratching their heads, since it wasn’t as if the school district was starting from scratch at the end of August in implementing an online-learning program. Most county public-school students had been instructed that way for much of the preceding 18 months, before the school system returned to five-day-in-person instruction this fall.

School Board member Monique O’Grady, who serves as the board’s liaison to the online-learning initiative until her tenure in office expires Dec. 31, acknowledged that “we do have work to do” to set things right.

“We are trying to make those improvements, O’Grady said, but added that “I do not want to lose the fact that we have dedicated, excited teachers who are in place, working with students” in the online program.

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