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Every parent wants their child to safe and happy at school.
But what do you do when that does not happen?
That is exactly the situation Julia Lindsay found her family in February.
Over the course of two days, one of her sons was humiliated in front of his class by his teacher, and her second son was attacked and choked by another student.
“It broke my heart,” says Lindsay. “I cried.”
And then Julia started looking for alternative forms of education where she knew her kids would be safe.
She quickly found Missouri’s virtual education program, MOCAP, and one provider, MOVA, that would provide a full virtual program that her sons could take from the safety of their home.
Excited about the new possibilities, Julia went to the Mexico School District Superintendent to get permission to enroll in the program.
“He denied me,” said Julia. “He told me that the reason that he was denying was because there was a deadline for enrollment even though it says in their policy that the superintendent has the right to override that.
He eventually told Julia that the virtual education program was just trying to take money from the school district.
Julia went through the process of appealing the decision to the school board, which also denied her legal right to ask the school district to pay for virtual education. She took the issue to the state Board of Education which also denied her request.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and every student in the Mexico school district found themselves having to learn from home.
“Mexico really dropped the ball,” said Julia. “There were so many parents talking about how they were not getting any education really.”
Luckily for Julia, MOVA decided to help her children despite the district’s refusal to approve her enrollment.
“They took us in and said we are going to let you start anyway,” she said. “It was amazing. There was such an improvement in just seven weeks of education. We had great teachers. I am so glad that the boys can be at home and not have to worry about the other kids or the staff picking on them.
“Clearly MOVA is not about money,” she added. “MOVA is about a child’s education because they took us in and they sent us everything and they are not even going to get paid for the last seven weeks.”
As Julia’s family went through the protracted battle to get her kids enrolled in a program they had a legal right to participate in she started a Facebook group to share the virtual education experience and talk to other parents who were exploring this new way of learning.
“This new school choice is a great thing for us parents,” she said. “We know our children and know what they need and what they are lacking and we know how they learn and how to communicate with them.”
Julia pointed out that virtual education is not for everyone, saying that it requires dedication form both the students and their parents.
“It’s a hard transition for a minute, but it is not that bad,” she said, highlighting that she really loved being able to be an educational coach for her kids. “Faith always overcomes fear and so if you step into it with faith and you’re in it for a good reason and you want to watch your children excel and succeed then this is for you.”
Julia said she particularly enjoyed bow MOVA provided a full school experience.
“We have counselors, we have principals, and technical support,” she said. “There are support groups for parents that have already been doing this for a while. They can help you out pretty quickly.
Julia added that her experiences this year had really underlined how important it is for parents to get involved in making sure their children are getting the education they deserve.
“As parents, we really need to kind of dominate for our children,” she said. “If at any time
you feel like your children’s education is in jeopardy or they are physically threatened then we as parents need to step in.
But, as Julia learned, fighting for your kids’ future can be a hard battle.
“You are going to get pushed back from the schools,” she said. “In our brick and mortar schools, it seems like our children are numbers. They are numbers for their test scores, numbers for their income and their education is on the back burner.
“Our schools are supposed to be a community, but if you do not have safety and education within that community there is no room for progress,” she added.
Julia hopes that more parents will realize that they do have other choices in Missouri and that that might help encourage district schools to improve.
“As soon as parents really figure out that they do have options,” she said. “I think that it is really going to take over. They have the choice to empower their kids and educate them the way they want. They can get what they need without the violence and the interruptions and the bullying.”
Thankfully Julia’s children will be able to continue down that path. She said that despite the issues this year, Mexico Schools has approved her two sons’ enrollment in MOVA for next year.
“I’m really thankful for MOVA,” she said, “and the virtual education we can do and that we can be home and be safe.”
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