Parents conflicted about returning to the classroom

MEDFORD, Ore. — The pandemic is still a major concern for everyone across the nation, especially parents. The past semester has been complicated due to the stress of adding online learning into the mix.

“At the end of the day, my family is most important to me, so I’m going to do what I can to protect my family,” Grants Pass mom of five, Mona Pinon said.

As school inches closer, parents are conflicted about coronavirus risks on campus. Pinon has five kids, four in the Grants Pass School District. Her youngest son is a cancer survivor and immune-compromised, so he’s especially at risk of coronavirus.

“I see things through different goggles than the rest of the world, I’ve watched my son to the point of death,” Pinon said. “For me, I want to do everything that I can so that he has a good quality of life but also so he has a good education.”

Many parents and guardians are juggling those same issues. The importance of education and everything else kids get from school, versus the increased risk to their children and their families.

“I’m willing to jump into this situation and recognize that I could get it and my kids could but recognize that’s just part of a lot of things,” Medford mom of four, McKenzie Israelson said.

Israelson has four kids from five to 13. She supports kids going back to school and thinks they’ll benefit from in-person learning, but she also wants to keep people safe.

“I definitely don’t want to pass it on to teachers and things that probably would be my greatest concern is that,” Israelson said.

Parents got a taste of how their kids would handle distance learning this spring. Some already know, it’s not best for their children.

“That’s not learning, that’s just asking a bunch of questions and checking yes so I feel like the substance wasn’t there for them to learn,” Grants Pass mom, Shalee Bucan said.

Schools will be better prepared this fall, after having spent much of the summer planning for some level of online learning.

“I think that’s going to relieve a lot of fears of people in the community,” Pinon said.

Mona still doesn’t know what she and her family will do, and she’s not alone. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 60 percent of parents said it’s better to open schools later to minimize the risk of infection. Another poll from the Federation of Children said 40 percent of families are more likely to home school after COVID-19 lockdown. With a lot of uncertainty facing parents this fall, more are turning to non-traditional forms of school like online school or even homeschooling pods to give their kids safe, stable options for the fall.

“We’ve actually had a lot of demand for the fall that we can’t meet,” Logos Public Charter School Executive Director, Sheryl Zimmerer said. “We have almost 600 people on our waitlist for the fall.

Logos Public Charter School in Medford operates on a hybrid model, much like the one most southern Oregon school districts are considering for school this upcoming fall. It allows families to choose how many days they want kids in school and provides homeschooling curriculum and support on the days that students are home. The school said it was simply a small hop and not a full jump to accommodate pandemic mandates in March.

“There are families that are pretty concerned about what’s going on in the world and they may want to make that choice for a season and they want a program like Logos that knows how to help them succeed,” Zimmerer said.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus and the many options parents have for their kids. Most parents agree this school year can’t and won’t look the same as years past.

“When they go back to school it’s not even the same as when they left,” Pinon said.

Pinon said that she’s decided to home school her youngest son who has survived cancer. Her oldest son who’s still in school will be attending in-person classes through the Grants Pass School District in the fall, barring any changes to the current plan from the Oregon Department of Education.

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