Schools across North America have struggled with bulging class sizes and dwindling funds for decades, but one New Hampshire school district believes it has found the answer to these issues. The Manchester School District is poised to implement a network of “virtual classrooms”, allowing for the area’s high school educators to instruct their normal classes as well as students participating remotely from neighboring campuses.
The plan, spearheaded by district superintendent Thomas J. Brennan Jr., would equip three high schools with interactive video screens, allowing students from one school to sit in on a course being taught at another through an integrated network of classroom software. Students could participate in discussions and listen to lectures without needing to step into a classroom.
Additionally, the district intends to utilize its current relationship with a local online charter school, the Virtual Learning Academy (VLACS), to offer online alternatives to high school courses. Students would attend these classes in a proposed “blended learning lab”. Each of the three district high schools would have its own facilitator-supervised lab.
Although Brennan has dismissed allegations that the plan is a direct attempt to address classroom sizes, there’s no arguing that the implementation of virtual classrooms would help alleviate that growing problem. The plan is also a more cost effective alternative to standard responses to classroom crowding, including hiring more teachers, making additions to existing schools, or constructing an entirely new building altogether. According to the New York Times, officials expect that the installation of the hardware necessary for remote classrooms and blended learning labs, along with the hiring of facilitators will initially cost the district $80,000.
The plan has been met with criticism from both parents and local school board members, who worry a curriculum of blended classrooms and online courses could diminish their student’s education. Brennan, however, remained optimistic that the plan could alleviate funding and class size concerns while providing Manchester’s children with an exemplary education.
“I believe the class sizes will diminish, and it will allow more opportunities for teachers to work with students that are struggling,” Brennan told the New York Times.
Are virtual classrooms the answer to school funding and class size issues in North America? Would you send your child to a school that utilized remote learning and online courses?