SAN ANTONIO — In 2020, parents are facing a back to school season unlike any other in recent history. In an effort to provide a variety of different perspectives, we are sharing interviews with families across the San Antonio area who are faced with a tough decision. The coronavirus pandemic forced schools to shut down in March – and as school districts prepare to start back up this fall, families are being asked to choose: distance or in-person learning. The decision isn’t easy for everyone – that’s why KENS 5 is trying to shed some light on how different families are making their decisions.
We spoke with one San Antonio area mother who is weighing the pros and cons of sending her son back to middle school.
Staci Almager's eighth grade son attends Rawlinson Middle School in Northside Independent School District. The district is planning to start the year with virtual learning for all students on Monday, August 24. They plan to offer parents the choice of whether to send students back for in-person learning after Labor Day or continue with virtual learning.
Almager, along with many parents across the area, have struggled with that decision.
"I have the upmost respect for anyone’s decision, but my husband and I agreed that the place for our son at this point in time is in the classroom. So if the choice is whether to send him back we have made a choice to send him back to school," Almager said. "I’m not a qualified educator, number one. Number two, I need there to be a point where I’m his mother and not his disciplinarian or his coach. I just feel like there needs to be a separation where I can be a sacred space for him and his social/emotional learning and that needs to be separated from his educational learning. I’m not qualified to teach him. In the spring semester after spring break, it was horrible. And that line was blurred and I saw a tremendous amount of depression and anxiety about having conversations with me that never existed before. So I need him to be educated by a qualified educator who has been trained and has a tremendous amount of experience doing so and I need to go back to the role of being his mother."
Almagar said her family struggled with both the logistical challenges of home and school being in the same space as well as lack of routine when families got a taste of virtual learning in the spring.
"We had to challenge one of which was that I have an essential role within the community I am a CEO of a nonprofit that helps support crisis of the community. So I couldn’t be there babysitting the homework and the online school and so we failed his parents, we let him sleep until noon and let him play video games for some sort of socialization," Almager said. "So school was noon to whenever I got home and then we wanted to do things that were more enjoyable as a family. So, my husband and I joke that he is a terrible home manager and I was working and had to put 100% into my career and then at home I wanted to be 100% mom, and then suddenly we wanted to the educator somehow and it was a hot mess and I didn’t want to return to return to the scene of the crime this fall."
Almager acknowledges her fears about safety during the pandemic, but has hope that teachers, staff members and parents will work together to make it as safe as possible.
"I want small class size, I want there to be very clear instruction. I need there to be excellent communication between the teacher and the parent, because this is the time when they are trying to teach kids to be a lot more self-sufficient," Almager said. "Let’s work it out between student and teacher, because they are preparing them for high school and, of course, hopefully education after high school as well. I need there to be a lot of communication with the teachers themselves because I feel like we’ve all been put in a very unmanageable situation no matter what we decide. I am very fearful that the mask thing is not going to work out very well so I really want there to be good communication about how things are going."
She said there is some benefit to this difficult time. Almager believes that her son's experience with virtual learning in the spring has provided some insight into how he will learn going forward through his high school and college years.
"I don’t think that my child responded well to 'Here is a Zoom class and go get it done'. That didn’t work for us and so honestly I thought it taught us a lot about how children learn. Some are independent, some need more in-person instruction. And so this helps us think through the next 10 years of education as we get ready for college. He would not be an online college student. He would have to be an in-person, probably very hands-on learning style of a student."
See more of Almager's interview below:
And we talked to two other parents from around the San Antonio area about how they feel about sending their kids back to the school during a pandemic. See more of their stories below: