'The gates are closed:' Huntsville parents frustrated by school district's 'blended learning plan'

Parents at one Huntsville school told WAAY 31 they stopped by one school all week and couldn't access the campus.

Posted: Apr 10, 2020 8:48 PM
Updated: Apr 13, 2020 1:17 PM

UPDATE: On Monday, WAAY 31 talked to Michelle Watkins, the school board member who is over Sonny Hereford Elementary School. She shared with us the gates were supposed to be open last week, but there was a miscommunication. The principal of the school notified parents on Saturday the school gates will now be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for students to go on campus to access WiFi.


After Huntsville City School’s first week of “blended learning” parents are giving it mixed grades, but most people WAAY 31 spoke to gave the district the letter grade "C" for confusing.

The school district said parents should be able to get on every campus to access WiFi, but Sonnie Hereford Elementary school was locked.

WAAY 31 spent all week trying to learn why this school is closed and where community buses are located. The district pointed us to the frequently asked questions section of the district's website.

Jimmie Bush said he's frustrated with the way Huntsville City Schools is handling its blended learning plan since coronavirus is keeping children out of school. 

"The gates are closed. There is nobody there," he said. "They said they can get online and do their work, but how can you get online and do your work if there is no WiFi?"

WAAY 31 tried to get that answer from Huntsville City Schools. The answer repeatedly changed.

Last week, the district announced buses with WiFi would be at every school and several other buses would be placed across the city.

Then the district said no buses would be at the schools but families could access other WiFi hotspots on campus, but until late Thursday, the district’s website still promised WiFi equipped buses at every school.

Thursday and Friday, schools with gates such as Sonnie Hereford were locked up.

'The gates are closed. How you going to get in there? Unless you call and maybe they might open the gate for you or something. That' what my wife is trying to do right now. She's calling trying to get them," Bush explained.

Bush's wife couldn't get anyone at the school on the phone.

Friday morning, WAAY 31 called the school district's spokesperson, Craig Williams, about the confusion. We didn't get a call back but we did get an email.

Williams stated: "Just confirming the plan has been and continues to be to welcome students to campuses to access wifi."

He told WAAY 31 no one in the district was available to go on camera about the blended learning plan when we asked them to clear up confusion about the plan.

While the back and forth disappoints Bush, he just wants access to WiFi to help the two children he cares for.

"I'm very frustrated, very frustrated, especially about the WiFi thing," he said. "This coronavirus thing has all the kids cooped up in the house. They're not able to get out or anything, so you know they are very frustrated," he explained.

The district has also deleted it's 33 page "Blended Learning Plan" from it's website on Thursday afternoon after we asked about inconsistencies in the plan. Williams told us the plan evolved, but it's not been re-posted.

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