UPDATE: On Tuesday, Fairfax County school officials clarified their estimate on the number of books they intend to order. They tell News4 they do not expect to supply every student with a textbook. Spokesman John Torre says at the elementary school level, each teacher will be supplied with a hardbound math textbook. He says junior and senior high principals are finalizing book orders for their students but several principals have indicated they do not want any additional books.
A rough start with online math books has led administrators in Fairfax County to order hard copy books for all 180,000 students, according to the school board.
Some parents and teachers want to make sure the same mistake isn't made in other subject areas.
Fairfax County School Board members got a firsthand look Monday at problems with the newly adopted electronic math textbooks. There has been an outcry from parents and teachers since they were surprised by the adoption of online math books at the start of the school year for all grades.
One of the biggest problems is the textbook content cannot be downloaded, meaning students can't print out any of the work and need strong Wi-Fi access to use the books. That meant any chance to do homework riding in the car or at off-site school activities had vanished.
The school district had initially purchased some hardcover textbooks, but they had to be checked out and were meant for students without Internet access at home.
Oakton High School PTSA President Kirsten Rucker said she was stunned when she asked her twin sons for their math textbooks and found there were none to bring home. Then she discovered snags with the electronic texts.
“I sent a note to the principal immediately and I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ and then I outlined all the issues in use we were having,” she said.
School board member and parent Megan McLaughlin said the school district rushed the decision and purchase without a proper test period and without feedback from teachers and parents.
"Most importantly, the issue here is that the technology is simply not there," McLaughlin said. "And so, whether or not students have internet access for these online textbooks, it's simply not delivering the learning activities and the curriculum to help students be successful."
The school board learned in Monday's work session that administrators recognize the problems. They have decided to order enough regular textbooks for all students. Now some parents and others are urging a slower approach before the school adopts the next generation of science and language arts texts.
The school district began already using online books for social studies during the previous school year, but that transition went more smoothly.