Online classes next thing for parents, schools to figure out

Parents, students and educators are adjusting on the fly with Ohio schools closed for at least the next three weeks. Work schedules, childcare and meals are an issue for some families, while others are just waiting for schools to prepare online lesson systems.

Carla Tyson of Kettering said work is very busy at the Dayton VA Medical Center now, so she’s blessed that her children are older and don’t present sudden, urgent child-care needs. Kettering schools are on spring break this week, but there’s still planning to do for her high school senior son and middle school daughter for the next few weeks.

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“My daughter will most likely go over to my mom and dad’s; they said they’re OK with that,” Tyson said. “It’s to make sure she gets her medication and she can focus (on school work). If she’s at home, she might get into this or that, not having an adult there to make sure that she stays on task.”

Tyson joked that with her son just months from going off to college, he had better be self-sufficient enough to handle online classes, or he’ll be in trouble this fall. But she acknowledged the sudden, strange break in school could make it tough for students already battling “senioritis” to focus and finish their final requirements.

Many schools are already handing out food to families who qualify for free lunch, but ramping up access to online lessons will take more time, as the state’s decision to close schools came suddenly last week.

Janine Jenista’s older son and daughter are in the seventh and eighth grade at the Dayton Regional STEM School, which has long been ahead of the curve on use of technology, turning snow days into “Plan E Days” where students do online work rather than sit idle.

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Jenista said she already knew her kids would be able to get school work done. She said they’ll be on their computers by 9 a.m., working for 45 minutes at a time and taking breaks, just as if they were in school. But she said the non-academic side of it needs attention too.

“The last few days have been a lot of conversations about how we feel. They have a lot of feelings and we need to talk about it,” Jenista said. “My middle school girl was just anxious. She was like, ‘Mom, I don’t know what I’m going to do … I don’t know how to feel.’ I told her that’s OK, I don’t either.”

Jenista said enforcing social distancing is hard with middle schoolers and teenagers. She told her kids it was a way they could help society, comparing it to rationing sacrifices Americans made during World War II.

Parents are making sacrifices too. Jenista calls herself “the side-hustle queen,” as she’s done online teaching and other part-time jobs while also raising her preschool-age son, who has epilepsy. She joked Monday on Facebook that with the kids doing online school at home, she may have to move her office to the minivan.

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Tyson said with all of the changes coming, one size won’t fit all, for either parents or students. While some parents can work from home, she said that’s not an option for her at the moment. While some families may not care if Prom or sports are canceled, for others, those may be central to their high school experience.

As a former teacher, Tyson said she empathizes with educators and students forced into an online school model that takes time to create. She wondered how hands-on career-tech programs or science labs would work in an online setting.

“And there are some students who will be just fine learning online, but there are some who might need that redirection from a teacher, that close proximity to keep them on task,” Tyson said. “Some kids learn manipulatively — they need to do and feel and work on things.”

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