Brittany Costello, Megan Abundis, Joy Wang
Created: August 04, 2020 10:50 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Whether you’re dreading the new school year, excited to return or somewhere in between—back-to-school season is upon us.
Parents, teachers and students each have their own opinions about kicking off the school year amid a global pandemic, so KOB 4 reached out to all of them to see what they are.
With the uncertainty of the pandemic on top of the added stress of virtual learning, educators across the state are feeling a mixed bag of emotions.
“What's overwhelming is not knowing when we're going to return to in person schooling, and whether or not it's going to be safe, and that's causing anxiety,” said Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.
Pulling off a hybrid model for the upcoming school year comes with plenty of caveats and teachers are still learning from mistakes during the spring semester.
“I'm trying to have realistic expectations, you know, we're in the middle of a global pandemic and I think that teachers, students, parents need to realize that we're not trying to recreate the classroom here,” said Michelle Perez, an English language development teacher.
Perez teaches mostly immigrant and refugee students. She also has the added challenge of working through a language barrier.
“We need to be mindful that our kids may have and probably have experienced a lot of trauma, their families have, you know, they haven't really had any contact with their teachers or friends or school in that matter, so I think we need to just be realistic in how much we're asking students to be online,” she said.
Robert Feuer teaches special education students in high school. While he acknowledges the work ahead, he’s hopeful.
“As a special ed teacher, we spend a lot of time one-on-one with kids, making sure that the writing is going well or they're understanding certain ideas and concepts,” he said. “That's going to be a lot harder in the distance learning, but I think we can make it work.”
Feuer said a big piece of the puzzle will be parent involvement and making sure students have a set routine.
"Making sure that they're showing up to these Google meets, making sure that they check Synergy for their assignments, contacting teachers," Feuer said. "There's a lot that they can do, parents can do to make sure that their kids are getting the work done. It's not going to be the same as face-to-face, but it can be pretty close with really good parent involvement."
Lastly, teachers want to remind parents to register their child for school if they haven’t already.
“So that teachers know who they're planning for, not just what they're planning for,” Bernstein added.
Teachers say parents should reach out if they think their child needs extra help. APS will begin virtual home visits next week when parents can expect to learn what their child needs.
APS teachers will report back to school starting Wednesday.
As the deadline for the start of school quickly approaches, parents are anxiously waiting on final plans and school schedules.
Rio Rancho Public Schools recently sent a memo to parents in the district that emphasizes the obligation from them to act as their child’s “learning coach”.
According to the memo, students in grades K through 5 could need up to five or six hours of support a day.
“It’s very difficult. I’ve been helping my son take care of his son because he's working full time,” said Victoria Muniz, a grandparent. “So if I wasn’t in a situation where I wouldn’t be able to help him it would be very difficult for him. You know, he would work an eight-hour shift then he would have to help his son if he got stuck somewhere, so I think it's really difficult for a lot of parents.”
Many parents still have questions and said they haven’t heard much from their school districts yet. Christina Strong, a mother of a six-year-old APS first-grader, said she’s nervous waiting on information from the district.
“Who is his teacher? I have no idea,” said Christina Strong. “I don’t know what his class schedule is going to be like. I don’t know what platform they will be logging onto. I don’t know what time they need to log on. I don’t know what supplies I need to buy for him in order to learn efficiently from home. Those are my biggest concerns right now.”
As parents wait to learn more, educators and school staff will get a head start this week.
KOB 4 spoke with a parent and education assistant at a school in Santa Fe. She said she’s still waiting to get her assignments for work.
Meanwhile, she has two young kids at home—a kindergartener and a third-grader. Her concern is keeping her kids focused throughout the day.
“I had a really hard time getting him to focus,” said Anna Stephens. “He would turn off his camera. He would say 'Oh, I got to go to the bathroom. Oh, I’m hungry.' I would find him leaning back or turned away, so I don’t know how I’m going to give a 100 percent for myself and a 100 percent for one and the other, especially my kindergartener.”
Overall, parents said they applaud the work that teachers and administrators are doing right now.
Parents said they want to send their kids back to school, but they don’t want them to get sick, infect their teachers, or bring home the virus. Right now, they said there is no right answer.
Navigating this new learning environment this fall obviously has its issues, but some students are up for the challenge.
“I'm kind of excited,” said Margaret, a student.
“I'm brave and I'm not scared at all,” said another student named Samantha.
Other students said they’re looking forward to reuniting with their closest pals.
“I miss my girl crew,” said 6-year-old Theresa.
Bottom line—whether school is virtual or in-person—kids are ready.
However, even though some kids said they’re ready, the question of how parents will educate their kids when they can’t be home with them still remains.
Some organizations like the YMCA are partnering with churches, APS, and CYFD for distance learning.
The program is offered Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and begins August 10.
The cost for non-members to participate is $199 and scholarships are available.
“I think it’s just a peace of mind for parents who have to work to have a place where they know their children are still going to be able to do the things they need to do as far as education and still being a safe environment,” said Albert Ramirez, executive director of the YMCA.
To learn more about registering your child for the Y-Club All Day or After School program, click here.
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