The stresses associated with distance learning have led some to believe the School District of Beloit needs to re-open for in-person learning, while others say the district has been proactive in keeping students, staff and the community at large safe by extending online learning until Jan. 22.
Single mom Emily Glynn said she had to get permission to work from home to help her first grade daughter with online learning as her 3-year-old attends daycare at the YMCA. She said this year’s online curriculum is well organized and the teachers are doing a fantastic job, however, she believes children need to be in school.
“The district has done the best with the situation they were in, but I don’t agree with the school board’s decision,” she said. “I would totally be in favor of all in-person learning, or I would have liked to see a hybrid.”
Glynn juggles her daughter’s school work and she does her own work from home. Her ex-husband can’t help as he has a construction job. It’s a situation she sees with other women, where the men’s jobs are in manufacturing or construction and the women having to work from home or quit work all together.
She said her daughter has meltdowns, especially after sitting so long in front of the iPad.
“It’s hard on working parents. I’m extremely busy, and it puts us in a not-so-great parenting mode. It’s putting out one fire onto the next,” she said. “It’s extremely stressful all day long.”
Glynn said area daycares have been able to remain open without major outbreaks and many other area school districts are open for in-person learning. She said she wishes those with the district would at least try to reopen with safety protocols.
“At some point you have to put everyone’s mental health first,” she said.
Glynn plans to speak out at an upcoming school board meeting on the issue.
Carmela Pulliam, mother of four, is working full-time as her husband changed his work hours to accommodate online learning. The family is enlisting the help of a tutor they must pay out of pocket as the kids are struggling to keep up. The challenge, Pulliam said, is that children who aren’t high-level readers cannot do the work on their own. It takes hours for parents to help, and lessons can be difficult to learn online. Most of all, Pulliam said she is concerned about the children across the community who might not have the necessary support to do online learning. She said she would be in support of the school offering in-person learning.
Parents Benjamin and Leticia Carbajal, assisted by their translator Joaquin Rosas, said they have a high school senior and sixth grader who they say are falling behind. They want to help but can’t because they can’t speak English. With kids at home, the Carbajals said the kids don’t always devote their full attention to online learning. The Carbajals said they would love to send their kids to in-person school and believe the schools could operate with proper safety protocols.
Alyssa Harmon, an 18-year-old senior, said she is typically a straight A student, but finds it difficult to keep her grades up with no separation between home and school. She said she understands why the district made its decision, but would much rather be in school.
“Most of my friends in the top 1 percent and I have never seen our grades so low, seen us struggle so much and be so emotional and frustrated about school, ever,” she said. “Our teachers are doing a fantastic job of trying to work with us. Our teachers are superstars and they need to be recognized for that.”
Angie Lannon, a mom of two middle schoolers, agrees it’s not been easy. There were technology issues with getting into classes at the beginning of the school year. However, Lannon said teachers have been extremely helpful and very communicative.
“If I email them I email them right back,” she said. “The teachers are working overtime as much as possible and trying to help all the students do well in school.”
Lannon believes her kids would be better educated in person, but said online is the right thing to do given the pandemic.
Lannon said there is also the danger of teachers getting COVID-19 and not having enough substitute teachers resulting in the district having to go online anyway.
“I understand both sides, but this is a time we have to adapt and humans are adaptable. This is for the safety of everybody,” she said. “This is not a political issue—this is a human and moral issue.”
Parent Daniel Barolsky and wife Anna have networked with six other families to take turns hosting the children’s online learning in their homes on different days of the week so they can all remain employed.
“I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, but it’s manageable, and I’m impressed with how well the teachers have done,” Barolsky said.
Jessica Fox-Wilson, a mom of a third grader, is in the same learning “pods” with the Barolskys. There is a group of younger and older kids for a total of 10 children. For Fox-Wilson, the school district’s decision was the correct one, especially having friends who are immune-compromised and knowing how elementary kids like to get close to each other and who might not always wear their masks like they should.
The families network on Zoom biweekly. If the Rock County positivity rate goes above 10%, they don’t socialize with any extra people outside their pod or their respective jobs.
Barolsky said online is not preferable to in-person teaching, but necessary.
“I would love it if my kids could go to school but Wisconsin numbers are rising,” he said. “The reality is the School District of Beloit made a very smart choice to do this.”
Barolsky said he’s proud of the district for making a commitment to safety and rolling out a strong program, but a bit resentful of the other schools which are open and contributing to the spread of COVID-19 as Beloit bears the brunt of the responsibility for students staying home.
Beloit Turner School District announced last week it will discontinue in person classes at all four of its schools for two weeks due to discovery of some COVID-19 concerns. Our Lady of the Assumption School in Beloit also announced at the end of September it was discontinuing in person classes temporarily due to COVID-19 concerns.