SALT LAKE CITY — As parents try to choose what’s best for their student in this COVID age, many in the public school system are looking toward alternative options.
“It is such a nightmare,” said Rachel Day, a Salt Lake City mother of two. “We have been frantic trying to make plans, second guessing ourselves, waiting for information.”
Day is like many moms here in Utah, trying to decide what’s best for her kids in the upcoming school year.
“We are really worried about sending our kids someplace where we just don’t know if it’s going to be safe or what the arrangements are going to be to keep it safe,” Day said.
In Day’s Salt Lake District, there’s still no final plan as to what school will look like for the kids.
“Communication has been slow with our district,” she said. “We’re having to start to think of other options now.”
Options like hiring tutors, or forming a co-op teaching group with other parents in the neighborhood.
“I think there’s an idea about having moms take a day with a group of kids each” Day said. “That will give them these social interactions, some educational opportunities, but also be in environments that we know are safe.”
Day has two children. Her son William is starting second grade.
“Those are just options we’re beginning to talk about as we feel less confident that schools are in a place to start in a couple weeks’ time.”
“I’m William and I have a magic trick I want to show you.”
William’s entry into his school’s virtual talent show was part of his at home learning this spring.
He hated distance learning.
“It did not work out,” William said. “I did not like it.”
His mom agrees, saying it was hard to keep her son on task with his assignments. That’s why she’s now looking into other options.
“I think the spring was just such a huge challenge to everyone,” Day said. “And we’re basically looking for alternatives to that.”
And Day is not alone.
There is a trend across the country, where parents are banding together, and hiring private instructors.
With thousands of members, Facebook groups like “pandemic pods” are helping families connect, but it can come with a cost.
On the site teacherstogo, three hours of tutoring four days a week would cost $480 a week.
That widens an already present gap.
Education equity is an issue the non profit waterford-dot-org addresses, offering free pre-k education online to families in Utah since 2009.
“The children get 15 minutes of personalized program every single day, five days a week,” said Waterford.org spokesperson, Kim Fischer.
It helps prepare 4-year-olds for kindergarten and beyond, but Fischer said for many, success with online learning comes down to whether or not they have a computer and internet access.
“Those who have it, have been able to continue their learning progress. Those who don’t, they’re getting left behind,” Fischer said. “That technology gap has to be addressed in order for us to move forward with our children and their learning.”
As for Rachel Day and son William, they’re still trying to decide what’s next for them this fall.
“I think just trying to figure out what could work, what are the opportunities for kids and parents,” Day said. “Try and muddle through it again, as we did in the spring, you know, looking for an alternative to that.”
Day said she won’t make any final decisions until she knows the plan for her son’s elementary school. In Salt Lake, the board is supposed to decide between all distance learning or a mix of at home and in the classroom instruction by the end of this week.
To see the plan in your district you can go to the Safely Back to School tab at the Fox 13 website.
On Wednesday’s edition of our Safely Back to School series, we take a look at private schools and daycares and how they’ve been able to operate in the pandemic, and share the lessons they’ve learned.