Posted on

The consensus is clear

Local parents want to see in-classroom instruction in the fall

Do parents want to send their children back to school in the fall during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The answer seems to be yes. That’s the consensus view of an unscientific social media poll of Edgar parents, a statement from an Athens parent who heads up an Athens School District education booster group and comments from two Marathon area parents.

Tracy Graveen, an Edgar parent, conducted the poll, which received 74 responses. The generally held view is that in-class instruction in Edgar needs to start in September.

In their comments, parents are realistic, several acknowledging that COVID- 19 may hang on for years but that student education can’t be postponed.

“The kids need to go back,” said one parent. “They need the interaction and the virus is not going away.”

“This is a virus and could go on for years,” said a second parent. “There is so much benefit for the kids actually being in the classroom.”

Many parents lauded school teachers for their efforts but said they struggled to co-teach children during the virtual learning in the last quarter of the 2019-20 school year. Such parents said they especially were tasked to instruct students who dislike school work.

“I cannot teach my son how he needs to be taught,” said one parent. “He needs structure and routine that the school gives.”

Parents said some children adapted well to virtual learning, while others did not. Some children, they said, need a teacher’s guidance and being in the classroom with other students.

“Children need interaction with teachers and their peers,” a parent wrote.

One parent said she, like other parents, supports sending students back to school in the fall, but wondered if parents would actually sign waivers holding Edgar School District harmless should their child get sick.

This parent said society found itself in “uncharted territory” in dealing with COVID-19.

Jill Heier, a mother of four young children and president of Youth Education Supporters (YES) in Athens, said her organization has not conducted a poll, but she supports sending children to school in the fall and feel other parents agree.

“Speaking as a parent of kids that attend Athens Elementary School, I do want my kids to physically return to school in the fall vs. virtual learning,” she said. “My husband and I both work full-time. The thought of balancing virtual learning, extra-curricular activities and full-time work schedules is daunting. I have spoken to other friends, family and parents in just normal day-to-day conversations, and they feel the same.”

Heier said she is hopeful that parents and school officials will be able to work out a return to school that will keep students safe from the pandemic.

“I am hoping for a collaborative discussion between the school district and parents regarding what the ‘new normal’ may look like come fall,” she said. “My husband and I have discussed this, and we have every intention of sending our kids back to school, pending what social distancing restrictions will be implemented.”

Marathon parent Paula Vesely, town of Emmet, said she supports in-school learning this fall and trusts school administration to figure out a safe way to do this.

“We are very hopeful school will open this fall so kids can be on campus learning,” she said.

Vesely said she and other parents struggled to help children learn during the last quarter of the past school year, especially given her family’s work schedule.

“I worked as an essential worker,” Vesely said. “It was a challenge to juggle school on top of it.”

Vesely, a mother of a high school freshman and a sixth grader, said local school boards will find it tough to “please the masses” and find a schedule and approach to fall reopening that will meet the needs of all families. She hopes school leaders take the time to craft a school plan that will stick, not change week to week.

“What we need is a solid plan, not jumping in and out of chaos,” she said.

Vesely said she leans towards giving K-6 students in-person instruction and, as needed, giving older students virtual learning. “The older kids can be trusted at home,” she said.

That said, Vesely stressed school board members need to consider that rural internet service is not as robust as it is in a village like Marathon City.

She said that the Marathon community will need to find a way for student education continue. “We can’t continue to fear something like this,” she said.

Leann Lang, a town of Cassel mother of two students at Marathon High School, said she generally supports sending students back to school in the fall, but has “mixed emotions.”

She said one of her children has a compromised immune system from leukemia and she worries about sending that child to school.

“That’s scary, but, on the other side, we have to worry about all kinds of diseases,” she said. Lang said school might be a concern, but so is continued virtual learning. She worries about students who will grow up “to hide behind computers” and lack communication skills or even be subject to depression.

The parent said she supports making sure younger students in grades K-6 have in-person classes. She said virtual learning for older students “teaches accountability,” although she worries that teachers won’t be able to assist these older students who might struggle with their virtual lessons.

Lang said she supports screening students with a digital thermometer when they show up at school in the morning.

“That would make me feel better if my son or daughter is in the building,” she said.