SEBRING — The School Board of Highlands County informed the parents of 633 students recently that the Innovative Learning Environment model is not working for their child. As a result, the board says those students are now required to return to face-to-face instruction.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the School Board of Highlands County offered three schooling options for elementary and middle school students. One of those options is the Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) model, which allows students, from their computer at home, to view a district classroom teacher during class and participate in class.

But, with the first nine-week grading period concluding on Friday, nearly one-third of the students in the ILE model are not making satisfactory progress.

Deputy Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge said the Curriculum Department and the superintendent have reviewed the progress of the students in the Innovative Learning Environment model. They identified students who were failing multiple subjects and those who are having attendance issues, he said. The parents of those students have been recently contacted, asking them to enroll their children in class for face-to-face instruction because the model is not being successful for them.

Parents were informed they had about a week to get their children enrolled in school so they could be in class on Monday, which is the beginning of the second nine-week grading period.

Superintendent Brenda Longshore said there were 1,991 students in ILE on the 29th day of school and letters were sent to 633 students who were not performing well or had poor attendance.

Hopefully they will be coming back to school by Oct. 19, she said, adding that the ILE learning environment has not worked well for some students.

The letter dated Oct. 9 to parents/guardians states, “due to lack of attendance, participation and/or failing grades your child will be required to return to the traditional face-to-face setting at their designated school beginning on the first day of the second nine-weeks, Monday, October 19.”

The real-time online learning model has been used in many districts in Florida this school year due to the pandemic. It has been an issue with some teachers who say it requires extra work on their part with many challenges.

Lethbridge said in education articles from around the state there are concerns with hybrid classrooms where some students are present for face-to-face instruction while others are at home and viewing the class online. Even for the teachers just doing the ILE model, sometimes there are frustrations with many of the students either not doing the work or not showing up for class, he said.

Input from teachers went into the superintendent’s decision making at that point to inform those students who were not successful with ILE model to return to school for face-to-face classes, Lethbridge said.

Longshore is reviewing the Innovative Learning Environment model as a whole, Lethbridge said. Some districts across the state are shutting it down starting in mid-year.

“We are constantly reviewing the models to see what works, what doesn’t work, what is successful for students, what is not successful,” Lethbridge said.

Longshore said there will be more discussions about ILE before a decision is made about its duration.