Local parents offer thoughts on new school year

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Tesse Benson’s youngest children enjoy play time while learning from home. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

The 2020-2021 school year promises unprecedented changes in policy, safety measures and organization as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting health orders from both county and state health officials. Anza’s Hamilton High School and Hamilton K-8 School and Aguanga’s Cottonwood School, which are all part of the Hemet Unified School District, are affected by the state’s current mandates, which will begin the school year online only, and hopefully transition to other options as conditions allow.

HUSD has created a plan to educate students with their safety in mind, giving parents choices on how to proceed. Three models are offered at this time.

In the hybrid model, students can attend part of the week in-person and the rest of the week online.

With the traditional model, students attend in person five days a week.

Doug Bailey is concerned about the cost of safety to his child’s socialization. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

The online model, or distance learning, involves interaction, instruction and check-ins via computer. Computers, hot spots, tech support, teacher devices and other technology will be provided by the district.

Internet connectivity, or lack thereof, has been a concern, according to the district.

Christi Barrett, superintendent of Hemet Unified, said, “HUSD understands the limitations some of our families have in regard to access to a device or the internet. The HUSD team is continually working on executing a plan in which families will be provided internet access and a device, if needed, even in our most remote areas. Schools will be communicating the details of access distribution before the first day of school, Aug. 17.”

Parents expressed their concerns regarding their children’s upcoming schooling experiences, as well as the effects on teachers and staff.

“The new school year is guaranteed to be difficult on everyone involved,” Tesse Benson said. “There will be people outside of their comfort zones working under conditions that they have most likely never worked in before. For myself and my family, we will be doing the online school with four students this year. It’s a lot, and one of us will probably cry before it’s over, but I’m trying to remember that we are all in the same boat right now and I would rather have them home and safe than have them get sick or get their teachers sick. I think during this time everyone just needs to remember to be kind. This isn’t the school year anyone was prepared for. Our teachers need to completely change the way they do everything over a very short period of time. So thank your teachers, they probably need those words of encouragement now more than ever.”

Working parents choosing the online model will face many challenges, Aurianna King, mother of four, said.

Aurianna King’s children Jayson, Grayson, Ayden and Jaydin look forward to distance learning in the upcoming school year. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

“I think that the new school year is going to be a stressful but beneficial time for families,” King said. “Stressful because we have parents working and trying to home-school their children – I do have a concern for those who cannot change their schedules in order to be sure their children are in their online meetings at the right time and focusing, especially for those with younger kids. I think it’s beneficial because it’s more time that we get to spend with our children, and it’s better than having them sit in a classroom without being able to socialize naturally like children do. I am worried about how the way things have been may affect the kids emotionally and mentally.”

Doug Bailey is also worried about the social needs of his daughter Deanna.

“I have very mixed feelings on the situation regarding school this next year,” he said. “Obviously safety is the first concern but at the same time I feel like it’s coming at a heavy cost. Our daughter works very hard at school, and it shows with an ‘A’ average since kindergarten. Vera and I promise her the world as long as she keeps up on her end of the bargain. Without school, recognition for hard work, socializing and the daily routine that goes along with going to school every day, I feel like she’s missing a giant portion of her youth. All that being said, do we send them to school in masks? Do they even work? I’m still on the fence here, but for me what it’s likely going to boil down to is safety.”

Some parents are already experienced in home schooling, and the district mandates do not affect them. Pamela Hansen educates her children at home.

“I feel for the families that have had everything change on them,” she said. “Home schooling is a great option if the family situation allows. We have amazing flexibility as home-schoolers – my kids are in sports; they can ride our horses any time they want and we can take our school work with us to the beach or the park. I just graduated my first home-schooler, and she is a well-rounded and happy girl, starting college in a couple weeks.”

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.