Parent tells school system: Give us flexibility and choice

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Good morning! Just wanted to share this letter with The Citizen in case your readers (parents) may be interested. I sent this [May 14] to Dr. Joseph Barrow, Fayette County superintendent. I’m advocating for flexibility and choice for parents in the upcoming school year.

Dr. Barrow, in your video, you mentioned there are a number of changes under consideration regarding how schools will operate when they re-open in the fall. My husband and I live in Fayette with our four children. Our two oldest are in first and second grade at Sara Harp Minter Elementary (I’m CCing Mr. Gibbas, our principal).

I am writing to share some feedback and thoughts based on our experience over the last several weeks. As you consider what to do this fall, I urge you to:

• Make health and safety your top priority. Even if this comes at a tremendous cost to parents (in terms of inconvenience or disruption). Make sure you operate schools in the safest possible way for the students and staff.

• Understand however that if that requires drastic changes (for instance, half days or rotating groups of kids only attending school every X number of days), many children will be unable to participate fully due to parents’ work schedules/child care arrangements/all sorts of other factors.

• Please provide parents with flexibility and options. Whatever plan you put in place must make sense for families (like ours, with two working parents). Parents need options like:

— children can attend face-to-face (according to whatever schedule is set by the district)

— children can attend online

— parents can instruct kids in whatever manner they choose (the school could assess kids regularly to ensure they’re progressing toward grade-level goals for the year)

• As soon as a decision has been made regarding how school will be altered/what exactly parents can expect, I urge you to share that information ASAP.

If the school calendar or actual school day schedule will change, we need advanced notice to adequately plan for those changes.

Sara Harp Minter teachers did their absolute best under unforeseen circumstances this year, and I sincerely appreciate the care and concern they demonstrated for families. As we move forward, you have an incredible opportunity over the summer to learn from these last few weeks and make adjustments and improvements so that things run even smoother in the fall.

While I am truly grateful for the work teachers have done to help the kids continue learning during the pandemic, I just want to emphasize (in particular for Mr. Gibbas) how difficult virtual learning has been for our young elementary students and the strain it put on us as working parents.

Throughout the crisis, we were working full-time from home, which has proved virtually impossible without daycare and four little ones in the house.

Every Zoom call our first grader participates in requires one of us to relinquish a laptop (and in most cases, one of us must sit beside and assist our first- and second-grader during Zoom calls with the technology).

We spent hours every day assisting the kids with their work, helping them read/interpret instructions, and simply helping them navigate and find their assignments online.

It has been very challenging to keep track of the dozens of websites, usernames and passwords the kids are asked to use.

For several weeks, we struggled to juggle all these responsibilities. I spent countless nights working well past midnight since my attention was so divided during the workday. Eventually, we chose to scale back the school assignments and began using a few first and second-grade workbooks from Amazon to come up with our own “low-tech” assignments for the kids, allowing them to work more independently.

I share this with you not to complain; only to stress that while teachers and schools have the very best of intentions, parents are feeling more overwhelmed today than ever before and to get through this (especially if we are months away from returning to a “normal routine”), school needs to be as easy, simple and painless as possible.

Many families (even those that take their children’s’ education very seriously) are dealing with issues that overshadow just about everything else — like health and financial concerns — please keep all this in mind as you make decisions about the 2020-2021 school year.

Thank you both for your leadership.

Karen Hinson

Fayetteville, Ga.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Your letter is fantastic. It gives a candid look into what families have gone through trying to help their children work through this new method of learning. Thank you for taking the time to send a letter to the superintendent and this newspaper. I hope the superintendent found time to discuss this issue in more detail with you. Do you feel that the school system’s survey gave you an opportunity to provide as much information as your letter did?

  2. If you close schools, you close businesses, because a lot of parents work and will have to stay home with the kids. Then the parents can’t go to their jobs. Basically the economy will stay shut down. WE have to adapt just like people in the past adapted to the Spanish Flu, Hong Kong Flu, Polio, Asian Flu, H1N1, ect. We don’t need to huddle in our homes, afraid to come out and have social contact with people. Never before have we done this. I remember during last season so many kids were out with the flu…but schools stayed open. We adapted.