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Students across the state are returning to school, but the quality and type of education they are receiving varies more this year than ever before.
This week CEAM checked in with four of our parent volunteers to find out what they were experiencing.
Tamika Graham, a St. Louis parent who had a horrible experience with her children’s education when their district school shut down for the pandemic last spring has found new hope as two of her children are excelling in a new virtual program she has enrolled them in at KIPP charter schools.
“We don’t have any issues with the technology,” she said. “They explained it at the school, they also sent instructions on paper on how to set up the computer. It was amazing and it still is amazing. I love it and I wouldn’t change schools for the world. The teachers are amazing with the time and dedication that they invested thus far.”
Tamika said KIPP had given her the option of sending her kids to learn in-person or virtually and she had chosen the virtual option out of concern for her children’s health.
“I can’t feel comfortable or safe to send my kids back to school,” she said. “I can’t replace them it’s something that I just won’t put at risk. It’s not just the risk for the kids but a risk for the extended family and you know, just the community in general.”
Becki Uccello, a parent and teacher in the Springfield area said her children are also doing well although they are in very different learning situations.
Her son, the oldest child, is attending school in-person at a public school.
“He learns better being in the classroom,” she said. “When he is learning on computer time just gets away from him and so it’s much better for him to be in the classroom with the instructor face to face.”
Her daughter, on the other hand, is attending a private Catholic school where she is also learning in person.
“Leading up to the beginning of school a couple of weeks ago, they were very good about saying this is what we’re gonna do and this is what we’re changing,” said Becki. “They have protocols for cleaning and I feel like she’s just as safe at school there as she would be at home.”
Shantelai Pettit, is taking care of her niece in Kansas City who is learning virtually through the public school system but is also looking into converting to homeschooling for her 4-year-old son.
“The communication has been good,” she said. “They have been very good about letting us know what is going on, we have had numerous Zoom calls with teachers walking us through the technology and how to navigate with the apps.”
She said the district has provided both children with iPads and hotspots.
Shantelai, who runs her own business, said she still hopes to transition into homeschooling if she can figure out how to balance the kids’ education with the time needed to keep her business running.
“I have come across so many different curriculums online that are free and I’ve been using them well before the pandemic but I’ve been doing more research as the pandemic came about and have found a lot of different resources and a lot of different homeschool groups that makes me feel not so alone,” she said. “People are being forced to look outside of the box. I think even though some people are not having such a great experience having to make those decisions, overall this is a good time to evaluate what’s really best for the kids.”
Cathy Jo Loy, a parent from the Carthage/Joplin area who has homeschooled her children for years, said that she completely agrees with the impact the pandemic is having on how families look at school.
“I think that it’s opening people’s eyes to what school choice is and how important it is the parents feel involved,” she said. “Maybe a lot of parents have just taken for granted putting their kids in the public school. That’s just what they do and they don’t really give it a lot of thought until there’s trouble or their kids aren’t learning. I’m hoping that this really opens the eyes for parents to say ‘Hey school choice is so important because these children need to have an education that fits not only their needs but their families’ needs.'”
Becki Uccello also agreed.
“This is giving a broader idea of what school choice is,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be public versus private. It can involve virtual, it can involve the micro-school or the pods. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s whatever works for the family, whatever works for the kid. I’m hoping that we can discuss and not argue because there may not be one right answer for every family.”