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Choosing between in-school and distance learning

If you are a parent, you may be struggling with the momentous decision of whether your kids should return for in-school learning this school year. With cases of COVID-19 rising across the United States and the school year fast approaching, many parents are left wondering what this school year will be like.

Some school districts have taken that decision out of the parent’s hand by only offering distance learning. Yet with the President and Secretary of Education declaring school should be open, some school districts are hemming and hawing about whether it comply or to go with the safer option of keeping students at home for this school year.

It is hard to say which is best. It isn’t as easy as saying that children need to be in school. Yes, most will learn better in a classroom setting, but the safety of the students, teachers and staff is equally important. Kids may not catch COVID-19 or suffer severe symptoms, if any, depending on which report you read. But teachers, custodial staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and front office staff can certainly be vulnerable.

And whether it will hit them lightly – as a mere cold – or harder where they are sick for a week or even more serious where they need to be admitted to a hospital or worse yet ICU with a ventilator is anyone’s guess.

My local school district has yet to announce their full plan for this school year. I know they are sending students back to school, but they are also offering distance learning for those parents who don’t feel it is safe for students to return to the physical building. And they have declared that the distance learning will be different than it was back in March, April and May.

But the details on both options are definitely lacking. They haven’t said how they plan to do social distancing at the schools or what will happen when someone tests positive. They haven’t said how distance learning will work. Will there be attendance taken while students learn in a Zoom classroom?

It is just 5 weeks until school starts and I – like many others – am eagerly waiting for details. The district did send out a survey asking which one we thought we would choose. I put down that my kids would be going back to in-person learning. Both kids are on board with that decision as they didn’t like distance learning.

But it isn’t that my kids are getting to make this important decision though I did take their feeling into account. Jase did really well with distance learning as he can easily be expected to sign in and do the assignments. But even he thought he was learning less online than if he was in a classroom. And there are some classes – orchestra and P.E. come to mind – that it is hard to do at a distance. Jase signed up for an outdoor adventure PE class where they should be learning fishing, building a tent, rock climbing, and biking. Yep, I can’t see that happening from a distance.

As for Lexie, she has ADHD and really needs the structure of a classroom and an attentive teacher who can redirect her. With distance learning, she and I both struggled. I had to constantly hound her and follow up with her on her assignments. She of course wants to return for the social aspect of in-person learning even though I have warned her that nothing will be like it was before.

And as much as I feel confident in my decision in sending them back, there is a part of me that is worried. Will they be safe there? What will happen if they do get severely ill because of my decision? Of course, there is no guarantee that if they stay home they will be safe. My husband or I could bring the illness into our household. There are no guarantees either way, but I don’t want to do anything that will put them in harms way if I can avoid it.

But what I need right now is details from the school district. They are meeting tonight so I am hoping they will be announcing something soon. Until then, all I can do is wait and keep reading up on what other school districts are doing and the rationale behind their decisions.

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