While San Diego Unified School District, including the Point Loma Cluster, will be online-only when school resumes Aug. 31, many cluster parents would prefer classroom instruction for their children.
And though parents agree tutoring would be a viable option to supplement their children’s education, many think the time and cost involved would be prohibitive.
The Peninsula Beacon spoke with Point Loma Cluster parents at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels to get their take on distance learning versus in-person education, as they prepare for the new school year.
“It’s understandable that schools are starting online this year given the number of cases in San Diego and all the unknowns with COVID,” said Sarah Moga, whose oldest son is starting elementary school this year. “It’s unfortunate for the kids, especially those with IEPs (individual education plans), disabilities, etc. I hope the school district can come up with a plan to reach the students who most need attention and in-person learning.”
Regarding tutoring, Moga said, “It’s great to hire a tutor for those who can afford it, but unfortunately that’s not everyone.”
Meg Tyndall has mixed feelings about PLHS being distance-learning-only to start out. She expressed disappointment that her daughter, a PLHS senior, after sacrificing her social time and working tirelessly to take challenging classes and be active in volunteer groups and sports, will now not be in the classroom.
“It's heartbreaking to us that she's not going to have the fun year that she so deserved – dances, senior events, senior pranks, late nights, parties … gone,” said Tyndall. “However, had school been starting in-person, she would have opted for the online version anyway, as I'm immune-compromised from recent breast cancer treatment.
“My daughter is not only stressed about college applications but worried about inadvertently killing me. That's a lot for a young adult to deal with. While online schooling is not optimal, we'll do what we have to in order to support her.”
Added Tyndall: “She's thankfully at an age where she will approach her teachers for help and form study groups with friends. I do feel for the parents with elementary-age kids, and encourage them to form bubble groups at each school with other parents to plan safe study groups, shared tutoring and fun outdoor learning activities. Instead of asking what our local school districts are going to do for our kids, we need to ask what we can do, as a community, to support our teachers (many who are also immune-compromised) and how we can enrich our kids' education and mental health during these unprecedented times.”
Heather Nelson has a daughter in middle school, and a daughter and a son going to PLHS. She said online education has proved problematic.
“Online school is not working for us,” Nelson said. “With three children at home all trying to drop into Zoom class at the same time, plus me working from home with my own Skype conference calls, our internet cannot handle it. My kids all complained about online school this spring, how they weren’t learning much, just going through the motions. My children are desperate to go back into a classroom to, as they say, ‘really learn,’ and socialize with friends.”
Nelson noted she and her children would prefer they were back in school, even given strict health protocols.
“They are all willing to wear masks to school and practice good hygiene and handwashing if they can go back to the classroom,” Nelson said. “I’m also considering pulling them out of San Diego and moving in with my parents in Redding to enroll them there if schools don’t open up here. Tutoring is out of the question since I already pay taxes for school. Gov. Newsom needs to reclassify teachers as essential workers. Period.”
Added Nelson: “My kids are upset, angry, depressed and they are the ‘least’ at risk for COVID, yet we keep them locked down at home. It just doesn’t make sense. They are losing precious time to learn that will have a huge impact on them for years to come. There should be options for families to go online or go into the classroom. I know teachers who also want those options.”
Jen Doud, a PLHS parent, is just as concerned about the mental and emotional consequences of her child not being in the classroom, as she is about the quality of the education students are receiving online.
“Nobody’s talking about students’ mental health and well being,” Doud said. “There are pressures within households, with schools closed down, to handle everyday challenges of school and work schedules. We’re concerned about our children’s mental health. We’re seeing it with depression in our teenagers. We really feel strongly toward a push for normalcy, which includes classroom teaching.”
As a taxpayer who expects to benefit from public services, Doud said she would not consider hiring a tutor, and not only because of the extra-added expense.
“What’s happening to all the money not being used (with schools closed) for running a school district that isn’t being spent right now?” she asked. “Maybe those funds could be allocated to provide some mental health services, help us with tutors, etc. We’re paying the money in taxes – and our kids aren’t going to school.”
Doud said she can’t see why in-classroom education can’t be an option.
“I feel that if households and healthcare workers can adapt for safety, work to sanitize and be very careful, so can schools,” she said. “Not to take extra precautions for kids not to go to school at all is outrageous. We could sign a waiver, make a commitment.”
Added Doud: “I think teachers are just as much essential workers as medical safety people are. I know it’s putting a lot on teachers. But we can all work together to make this happen. We’re very concerned about the mental well being of our kids.”