Online school has been challenging for all families, especially those with little children. While most older kids are able to do virtual school independently, parents of young elementary school students have restructured their entire schedules to accommodate their kids’ learning.
Sammamish residents Brooke Renderos, 40, and Mansi Jindal, who is in her thirties, both had to take time off from work to support their children with online school.
“You have to post your video and homework on Microsoft Teams, which a child cannot do. A kindergartener cannot do this because they do not know how to read,” said Jindal, who has had to help her kindergartener with online school.
Many other Sammamish parents shared this same sentiment. Nicole Yurchak, 38, a stay-at-home mom whose daughter is also in kindergarten, explained that children at that age cannot tell time, log on to the computer, or manage their schoolwork without the guidance of an adult. Sitting in one place for an extended period of time is overwhelming for little kids.
Several parents said that despite being familiar with technology, their children were not enthusiastic about “going to school” on the computer. They dreaded it.
“There was crying and there were days where she did not want to get on the computer,” Yurchak said.
Julia Dos Remedios, 43, has seen what a normal in-person kindergarten is like with her older kids, who are now in fifth and third grades, so it was especially distressing to see her youngest child miss out on in-person learning.
“It was sad watching him sit in front of the computer screen singing by himself, dancing by himself,” said Dos Remedios.
Responding to pressure from overwhelmed parents, Issaquah School District (ISD) reopened in-person learning on Feb. 11 for kindergarten and first grade classes. Lake Washington School District (LWSD) followed soon after on Feb. 18 for the same grades.
Students attend in-person classes for four days a week. In LWSD, the hybrid in-person classes run for four and a half hours each day and have staggered start and end times for each school. Similarly, ISD also has a modified schedule for every school, with classes running for three hours.
With remote learning taking a toll on many parents’ schedules as they were forced to help their kids daily, many jumped at the opportunity to enroll their kids in their district’s hybrid learning schedule.
When asked about any concerns for in-person learning, all parents said the virus was at the bottom of their list.
“I was not afraid of her getting COVID or anything, it was more me being afraid of how she was feeling,” said Renderos.
Her daughter was not new to the school environment since she had been in kindergarten before the pandemic began. Renderos mostly worried about whether her daughter would be able to make friends and play with them. Renderos said her daughter is now in first grade and thriving in the hybrid learning environment.
Amanda Mathis, 43, was also concerned about the wellbeing of her twin first graders and felt confident that they would be in a safe environment at school.
“I felt like the school and the district communicated the changes that they were implementing really well,” said Mathis.
All of the parents shared that their young children have done a great job adhering to safety protocols at school, such as wearing masks and staying socially-distanced from each other.
Jindal has seen a transformation in her daughter since hybrid learning began. Several parents said their children are now excited about going to school and seeing their friends in person, even if it is from a safe distance with masks.
“She was following me around everywhere, but I see a spark in her eye now that she goes to school…she is more open and confident,” Jindal said of her daughter.
The moms’ eagerness to have their children begin in-person classes did not prevent them from experiencing “first day of school” emotions. Almost all of the moms interviewed for this story confessed that they still cried as they sent their little ones off to school for the first time in nearly a year.
“You miss their presence. I showed up at the school early to pick her up because I was so excited to see her,” said Jindal.