I have been talking a lot with friends and fellow parents about the upcoming school year. To say that people have mixed feelings about school is an understatement, especially with the “up and down” of the announcements.
A few weeks ago, I received an email that our school district had a choice between 1) a hybrid model of in-person classes and distance learning or 2) full distance learning for students. Just a few nights ago, I received a new email that stated that the district has changed the offerings to only one: distance learning until at least November.
I place no blame on anyone or anything for the change in announcements. But I can see how it has been frustrating for families who are trying to figure out what will happen with their children come September. Our household is lucky enough to have one parent at home, one parent at work. This is certainly not the case for all families. Many families depend on school hours and after-school care to allow the adults in the household to work full-time. Some parents are happy about having their kids home for distance learning, while other parents are stressed.
To get a sense of how parents are feeling in my community, I asked one poll question on 1) my kiddos’ school (an elementary school in northeast Portland) “parent teacher organization” Facebook page and 2) my personal Facebook page. I asked for votes from three groups of people: parents, teachers, and school administrators/staff. To parents, I asked: “Regarding the pandemic, do you feel safe sending your kids to school in-person?” To teachers and school administrators, I asked: “Regarding the pandemic, do you feel safe returning to school to work?” I also urged the participants to share their concerns, questions, ideas, and general thoughts. Here are the results.
Total participants- 20
Yes votes- 3
No votes- 17
Percentage- 17/20= 85% said no. 15% said yes.
15 parents- 3 “yes,” 12 “no”.
2 teachers- 2 “no”
3 school administrators- 3 “no”
Thoughts From Parents, Admin, and Teachers-
Teacher/Admin reason for “no” votes-
Not enough knowledge or equipment to keep kids and staff safe. Distance learning may lessen the connection between teachers, students, and their families. Teachers are not trained to deal with the multiple responses to teaching and caring for kids through a pandemic. Fearful of their health as teachers and staff, and fearful of the kids’ health.
Parent reason for “no” votes-
Fearful of kids and teachers’ health. Kids may not be mindful enough of the spread of germs at school. Kids may not wash their hands often enough at school. Kids have missed socialization and have felt isolated in their new world of distance learning. Social distancing at school would be nearly impossible, even with distance markers, instructions, and new guidelines. It will be hard for kids to avoid touching through typical games at recess such as tag or hide and seek. Many parents noted the sad fact that some families cannot stay home with their kids and will have to find a childcare alternative now that in-person school is not happening until possibly November.
Parent reasons/ideas for “yes” votes-
One of the participants explained their idea to assess risk within the individual students and households and aim to create small cohorts of students and teachers according to their risk levels of contracting the virus, and also to offer different types of schooling availability dependent on the factors of the student and their household. The participant also explained that they feel covid-19 is something that will be here for the long haul. Further, they explained their feelings that waiting for a “zero risk/zero cases” period or a vaccine may take years.
Positive comments from parents regarding distance learning-
Students who are usually introverted have gained confidence through distance learning. Students have increased their socialization due to distance learning. Students’ academic performance has increased due to distance learning. Nice to spend more time with their kids due to distance learning.
It looks like parents in Portland Public school district and the David Douglas school district don’t have a choice about what to do in Fall anymore; we are all headed for distance-learning until at least November. No matter how we feel about it, it is important to consider what families are going through who are struggling with this decision. I encourage you all to lend support where you can. Perhaps reach out to parent buddies at your school and check in on how they are doing. Try to stay connected with other parents through phone, email, or social media. Share ideas about things that have helped you and your child be successful with distance learning. Share helpful educational resources that relate to your kiddos’ age group, (or others!). Stay connected with your school and see what opportunities may be available to help other families who are missing resources or having a hard time with homeschooling.
I am sure we are all absolutely sick of this saying, but I mean it when I say, “We are all in this together.” If you and your family are having a hard time, reach out to other parents and your school and whatever help you need. If you and your family are flourishing, reach out to other parents and your school and ask how you can help.
Best of luck to you all as we approach another round of distance learning.
Stephanie McCoy was born and raised in Portland, Oregon-where she still lives. She recently graduated with a Master’s in Education degree from Concordia University. In her free time: she likes to read and write, get outdoors, embrace her kiddos and husband, and watch travel documentaries.