HONOLULU (KHON2) — A controversial online program used by thousands of public school students will soon be discontinued following a review by the Department of Education into the program named Acellus.

The DOE began the review based on complaints about Acellus having inappropriate content and questionable rigor.

The DOE says they received complaints from parents, schools, and communities.

Always Investigating was the first to bring to light some of the concerns surrounding Acellus back in August.

State House Representative Amy Perruso questions why it took so long for anything to happen.

“I’m troubled by the lack of rigor, and I think that nobody challenged the use of Acellus when it was used for credit recovery,” Rep. Perruso said.

Acellus became a main program under distance learning, but was used as a way for students to make up credits.

“As I understand it, the DOE had it for remedial learners for students who had failed,” Kailua Intermediate teacher Eric Stinton said. “Now it’s been used for everybody just indiscriminately.”

The program being blanketed upon a large chunk of the student body has cut students off from receiving help from teachers.

“A lot of my students are on Acellus,” Stinton added. “I have no access. I don’t really know what they’re doing. I don’t know if their needs are being met.”

In the original Always Investigating report, Acellus estimated its fees could cost the state nearly $3,000,000.

Both Rep. Perruso and Stinton think that money would’ve been better spent on the development of an in-house program.

“I would like to see them set up programs where they’re hiring teachers who are content specialists, working with tech specialists, developing our own curriculum.=,” Rep. Perruso said. “That would save us so much money, and it would be ours.”

Stinton believes the talent in the DOE’s teaching pool is deep enough to get it done.

“There are a lot of teachers who did similar kinds of stuff anyway just on their own,” Stinton said.

With no end to COVID-19 in sight just yet, and other potential hardships like hurricanes, volcanic events, and climate change, Rep. Perruso thinks it will also be an investment for other times where Hawaii encounters a need for online education.

“There will be other situations in which the roads might be caught off for months,” Rep. Perruso said. “What do we do. So we need to have multiple layers of plans in place, and I feel like what this reveals is that we have no plan.”

The DOE says it’s finalizing a transition plan for Acellus users and does not want to jeopardize students’ current progress. It adds that it’s working to provide more options schools can offer to students who will continue distance learning.

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